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Thursday, August 10, 2006


Birmingham, 10 August (AKI) - Most of the 21 people arrested overnight in connection with a failed plot to blow up numerous commercial aircraft mid-flight between Britain and the United States are "understood" to be British citizens of Pakistani origin, the local Birmingham Mail daily reported on Thursday.

"Sources indicated that the majority if not all of those arrested were British... the majoirty of those arrested were understood to be of Pakistani origin," the Birmingham Mail said. Police have not yet confirmed the identities of any of the suspects arrested and have said they believe other suspects may still be at large.

Most of the bomb plot suspects were arrested in the British capital, London, but some were detained in the central UK city of Birmingham and others in the Thames Valley area in southern Britain, police said. Police searches of homes and business in these areas were reported to be continuing on Thursday.

The Birmingham Mail quoted a "senior source" as saying the alleged terrorists were believed to be planning to blow up as many as nine aircraft in a simultaneous attack, involving liquid explosives to be carried on board planes in hand luggage. Three US airlines, Continental, American and United, were targeted in the plot, Associated Press reported on Thursday.

Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner Paul Stephenson was quoted as telling reporters the plot was designed to cause "untold death and destruction." He added: "This was intended to be mass murder on an unimaginable scale."

Security is reported to have been drastically stepped up at all UK airports and stringent new measures imposed. Britain's main airport, Heathrow, and Gatwick airport, both outside London, are reported to have suspended all incoming flights. Long delays and extensive disruption at are being reported, especially at Heathrow,and passengers are being advised to avoid non-essential air journeys.

On 7 July 2005, three British-born youths of Pakistani origin and one Jamaican-born Muslim convert blew themselves up on central London's transport system killing 52 people and injuring 1,000 in co-ordinated blasts.

The UK authorities have arrested 1,000 people since 2000 on suspicion of involvement in terrorism. Of those, 154 have been charged and 60 are awaiting trial, Britain's interior minister, John Reid said in a speech on Wednesday. Reid added that the country is facing its most sustained period of threat since World War II.
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