Britain charges 9, says U.S. Embassy was terror target
LONDON - Nine of the 12 men arrested last week in Britain on suspicion of planning a terrorist attack against targets including the U.S. Embassy were charged Monday with conspiracy to set off explosions and testing potential bombs.
A U.S. State Department spokesman confirmed Monday that the U.S. Embassy in London was on the list of potential targets. "Our folks in London are aware of this, are working quite closely with British authorities, and appreciate the high level of cooperation that we have with them," said department spokesman Mark Toner. He added that embassy officials were taking "suitable security precautions."
Another potential target was the London Stock Exchange, the BBC reported.
The charges added to worries in Europe over reported preparations for a terrorist strike during the holiday season. Public concern was triggered by a warning in October from U.S. intelligence agencies, and further heightened by a string of recent terrorism-related incidents in European cities. Some incidents were linked to Islamic militants, while others were allegedly the work of European anti-government radicals.
Adding to the jitters, police in Rome said they had defused an explosive parcel Monday outside the Greek Embassy - the third such incident in a week. On Thursday, an Italian anarchist group said it was responsible for parcel bombs that exploded at the Chilean and Swiss embassies in Rome, injuring two staff members. Italian police said the Greek Embassy bomb was similar to the earlier devices.
In the Netherlands on Friday, 12 men of Somali origin were detained in Rotterdam on suspicion of plotting terrorism-related offenses. Five were released without charge, and seven were detained for further investigation.
Earlier this month, a Swedish man of Iraqi origin blew himself up on a busy shopping street in Stockholm, slightly injuring several passersby.
Against that background, British police said, they moved quickly to prevent the British plot from getting off the ground.
"I have today advised the police that nine men should be charged with conspiracy to cause explosions and with engaging in conduct in preparation for acts of terrorism with the intention of either committing acts of terrorism, or assisting another to commit such acts," Sue Hemming, head of the Crown Prosecution Service counterterrorism division, said in a statement.
The suspects - two from London, three from the Welsh capital of Cardiff and four from Stoke-on-Trent, a town in central England - continued to be held in custody after a hearing in a London court Monday. They are next scheduled to appear in court Jan. 14.
The suspects, some of whom were said to be of Bangladeshi origin, were accused of plotting an explosion "of a nature likely to endanger life or cause serious injury to property in the United Kingdom," between Oct. 1 and Nov. 20, the West Midlands police said in a statement.
Between Oct. 1 and Dec. 20, the day of the arrests, the suspects were preparing for acts of terrorism, "researching, discussing, carrying out reconnaissance on, and agreeing [to] potential targets," the statement said.
British media reports said the suspects, ages 19 to 28, were targeting British landmarks, including the Houses of Parliament, and reported that the plot was related to al-Qaeda.