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11 suspects charged in alleged plane plot
Los Angeles Times
LONDON — Citing evidence that includes "martyrdom videos," suicide notes and bomb-making equipment, authorities Monday filed criminal charges accusing 11 suspects of involvement in an alleged plot to smuggle explosive devices onto airliners bound for the United States.
The first public disclosure of the results of a months-long investigation offered only a brief overview of evidence but hinted at a trove of material and leads to be examined.
"The scale is immense. Inquiries will span the globe. The enormity of the alleged plot will be matched only by our determination to follow every lead and every line of inquiry," said Peter Clarke, chief of counterterrorism for the London police.
Authorities said they expect to spend months examining the results of at least 69 searches of houses, businesses, cars and woods, which have yielded more than 400 computers, 200 mobile telephones and 8,000 computer-data storage devices.
"I would like to reassure the public that we are doing everything we can to keep you safe, for you to live your lives without constant fear. However, we must be realistic," Clarke said at a news conference announcing the charges.
"The threat from terrorism is real, it is here, it is deadly and it is enduring," he said. "As we look for explanations, we cannot afford to be complacent and ignore the reality of what we face."
But authorities have faced increased skepticism from the public, particularly Britain's estimated 1.5 million Muslims, after two previous cases in which terror suspects were shot during the course of police actions that did not produce prosecutable evidence of terrorism plots.
Eleven suspects remain in custody without charges. One suspect, a woman, was released Monday.
Eight suspects were charged with conspiracy to commit murder and preparing acts of terrorism. Two others, including a young mother whose husband was charged in the plot, were accused of failing to disclose information that could have prevented a terrorist attack.
A 17-year-old boy, not identified because of his age, was charged with possessing a book on bombs, suicide notes and the wills of people prepared to commit acts of terror. He also had a map of Afghanistan containing information "likely to be useful" to a person preparing an act of terrorism, authorities said.
Two brothers who have been identified in British news reports as the purported ringleaders — Rashid Rauf, whose arrest in Pakistan is thought to have triggered the other arrests, and his brother Tayib, arrested in Birmingham — are among the 11 suspects who have not been charged in the British courts. Rashid Rauf remains in custody in Pakistan.
Susan Hemming, head of the Crown Prosecutors Service counterterrorism division, who signed off on the charges, said the remaining suspects are "under active investigation."
"Their position is being assessed on a regular basis with a view to considering the need to keep them in detention," she said. "We cannot yet make a decision about whether further charges will follow," or whether authorities will seek to extend their detention when the current warrant runs out Wednesday, she said.
Under British law, police can hold terrorism suspects for 28 days without filing criminal charges, though a judge must review the cases periodically during that time.
British law affords far less leeway than U.S. courts in discussing evidence before trial. Analysts said it was unusual for authorities to release even as much as they did about the evidence collected.
Doing so, said Roger O'Keefe, deputy director of the Lauterpacht Center for International Law at Cambridge University, risks jeopardizing the trial and the ongoing investigation.
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company