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Homeland Security

UK Foils Transatlantic Bombings

Disrupted Terrorist Plotting

Event Details
Primary OrganizationUK-US airline bomb plotters
Other OrganizationAl-Qaeda
Other OrganizationJaish-e-Mohammed
Possible Method(s)Liquid bombs smuggled onto planes
Possible Target(s)Between 6 and 10 transatlantic passenger jets
Center of GravityUnited Kingdom
Second LocationPakistan
Plot Started July 20056
Plot Ended Aug. 10, 2006
OutcomeDisrupted by arrests of alleged plotters
ConnectedAbdul Muneem Patel7, Abdul Waheed5, Abdula Ahmed Ali7, Assad Sarwar7, Assan Abdullah Khan7, Cossor Ali7, Ibrahim Savant7, Muhammed Usman Saddique7, Nabeel Hussain7, Osman Adam Khatib7, Shamin Mohammed Uddin7, Shazad Khuram Ali7, Tanvir Hussain7, Umair Hussain (Acquitted) 7, Umar Islam7, Waheed Arafat Khan7, Waheed Zaman7, Waseem Kayani7, Mehran Hussain (Acquitted) 10
ConnectedMohammed Yasar Gulzar13, Abu Obaidah al-Masri14
ConnectedRashid Rauf1, Abdul Rauf12, Maroof Rauf5, Matiur Rehman
ConnectedTayib Rauf7,9
Narrative and Notes
ReliableAccording to British authorities, a group of plotters with apparent ties to Pakistan planned to smuggle liquid explosives onto between six and ten airliners departing the United Kingdom bound for the United States.

The bombers would detonate the explosives en route.

The targeted airlines were American, Continental and United.

British authorities learned of possible plotting as early as July 2005, when a tipster informed police of concerns about an acquaintance following the London subway bombings. Over time, they developed a list of at least 24 U.K.-based suspects, with residences in London, High Wycombe and Birmingham.

On Aug. 9, 2006, Pakistani authorities detained suspected al-Qaeda operative Rashid Rauf in Bahawalpur. He is apparently the brother of one of the 24 in the United Kingdom. Six others have also been detained in Pakistan, possibly in connection with the plot.

His arrest may have triggered the British to act, for fear Rauf's disappearance might send the UK-based plotters underground.

In the early morning hours of Aug. 10, 2006, British counterterrorism authorities conducted several simultaneous raids in those cities, arresting 24 people.

The operation was known as "Overt," according to British press reports.

Of those 24, 19 have been acknowledged by the British government when it froze their bank accounts. Another was acknowledged when they were charged by authorities.

The names of at least four more have been reported in British media. One of those, Amjad Sarwar, was quickly released.

Several are of Pakistani descent.

The arrests spawned terrorism alerts in the United States and United Kingdom, and officials worried publicly not all the plotters had been identified or caught.

Air travelers in both countries were forced to surrender liquids and other items at security checkpoints; in some cases, almost no carry-ons were allowed.

The plot has echoes of Project Bojinka, a 1994 plot to blow up several airliners crossing the Pacific Ocean. That plot was hatched by Ramzi Yousef and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said it knew of no connected plotting inside the United States.

Another suspect was arrested Aug. 16, 2006. The person was not immediately identified.

On Aug. 21, 2006, 11 suspects were charged. Eight were charged with direct roles in the plot; two others, Cossor Ali and Mehran Hussain, were charged with knowing about it but not informing authorities.

An unidentified 17-year-old male, presumably Abdul Muneem Patel, was charged with possessing a book on how to build bombs, suicide notes and wills of people prepared to commit acts of terrorism, and an annotated map of Afghanistan.

On Aug. 21, British police also said they seized several pieces of evidence in some 69 searches: bomb-making equipment, including hydrogen peroxide, martyrdom videos, 400 computers, 200 mobile telephones and 8,000 computer storage items (like CDs).

On Aug. 24, a 12th suspect, Umair Hussein was charged with failure to report his knowledge of the plot to authorities.

Umair and Mehran Hussein were later released on lack of evidence. Tayyib Rauf and Amin Asmin Tariq was also released without charge.1,2,3,4,6,10
PossibleIt is unclear when the plot was to go forward, although British and U.S. officials described it as fairly advanced. The plotters may have been close to a dry run in which they tried to find out what they could sneak onto a flight.

British officials insisted they knew of no specific date for an attack, and they would have moved on the alleged plotters sooner if they did.4,8
QuestionableIt is said two or three women were detained as part of the plot. One is Cossor Ali, wife to Abdula Ahmed Ali.

The UK government has not acknowledged arresting Maroof Rauf; his name came from news reports.5,8
1Cowell, Alan et. al. 'Suspect Held in Pakistan Is Said to Have Ties to Qaeda.' New York Times, Aug. 11, 2006.
2Scotland Yard press release, Aug. 10, 2006.
3Department of Homeland Security statement, Aug. 10, 2006.
4Kirka, Danica. 'U.K. Foils Airline Bombing Plot.' Associated Press, Aug. 11, 2006.
5The Daily Mail. Aug. 11, 2006.
6Whitlock, Craig and Dafna Linzer, 'Tip followed '05 Attacks on London Transit.' Washington Post, Aug. 11, 2006.
7Bank of England press release, Aug. 11, 2006.
8'The arrested suspects.' The Daily Telegraph, Aug. 13, 2006.
9Arrested, released without charge.
10'Terror Charges in Full.' BBC, Aug. 21, 2006.
11Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke, Metropolitan Police Service, press statement.
12'British bomb suspect's father arrested.' Agence France Press, Aug. 19, 2006.
13'Trio remanded on terror charges.' BBC: Aug. 30, 2006.
14'Official: Al-Zawahri frequented attacked school.' The Associated Press: Oct. 31, 2006.
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