Jim Kouri
U.K. counterterrorism operation nets 12 suspects
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By Jim Kouri
December 21, 2010

Interpol had issued an all-points-bulletin last week that told its more than 180 member nations that it "received information... from the Interpol office in Baghdad about possible threats, especially in the U.S. and Europe, due to orders given to al-Qaeda cells by al-Qaeda commanders."

British police detectives on Monday captured 12 suspected terrorists as a result of INTERPOL warnings last week regarding possible Christmas bomb attacks in the U.S., U.K., and other European nations.

The suspects, Muslim males aged between 17 and 28, were detained in London, Birmingham, Cardiff, and Trent and charged with suspicion of commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism in the U.K., security officials said.

Police and MI5 searches began after the arrests at several locations, with detectives and forensic technicians seeking evidence of terrorism such as materials that could be used to make improvised explosive devices.

The counterterrorism dragnet was launched "to take action in order to ensure public safety," the country's leading anti-terrorism officer, Assistant Commissioner John Yates, of the Metropolitan police, told the British left-leaning newspaper The Guardian.

"This is a large-scale, pre-planned and intelligence-led operation involving several forces," Yates said. "The operation is in its early stages, so we are unable to go into detail at this time about the suspected offences."

Interpol had issued an all-points-bulletin last week that told its more than 180 member nations that it "received information... from the Interpol office in Baghdad about possible threats, especially in the U.S. and Europe, due to orders given to al-Qaeda cells by al-Qaeda commanders."

According to a report obtained by the Terrorism Committee of the National Association of Chiefs of Police, Interpol knew about the suicide bombing in Stockholm last weekend prior to the blast.

During the attack, a suspected al Qaeda attacker detonated a car bomb then killed himself in a separate explosion. Thankfully there were no deaths and only two people sustained injuries.

Swedish police identified the attacker as Iraqi-born Taimour Abdulwahab al Abdaly, who allegedly was trained by an al-Qaeda cell in the Britain. Warnings about further possible attacks also came from Iraqi government officials.

A member of the NYPD's detective bureau told this writer that a possible terrorist target would be a large public venue with large crowds of people in metropolitan areas. Among the holiday security measures is wider use of bomb-sniffing dogs in transit systems, airports, shopping malls and other public places.

The closeness of Christmas appears to have been a factor, but it is not clear whether investigators were nervous because of any specific intelligence that an attack was imminent, or whether the "landmark" date made them anxious.

These latest U.K. arrests followed a long term undercover investigation led by MI5, according to counter-terrorism officials.

Those arrested were alleged to be involved in a serious plot, according to officials, indicating this was more than an operation designed only to disrupt or warn off suspects. Well-placed officials described the investigation as significant.

All 12 suspects were arrested under Britain's 2000 Terrorism Act. The majority of the suspects are believed to have come to the U.K. from Bangladesh.

City councillor Ramesh Patel said he understood they were members of the Bangladeshi community. "The police told me and other councillors that they were going to make these arrests," he said. "It's a shock for the community. The police seem to have acted quickly, but it's important not to accuse these people yet. It will be up to the police and courts."

The British government's risk matrix — similar to the U.S. color-coded alert system — remains at "severe" — the second-highest level, meaning an incident is seen as highly likely.

In October, the U.S. state department issued a travel alert for Europe, saying groups linked to al-Qaeda could be planning attacks. This followed speculation that al-Qaeda was planning a "commando-style" attack similar to the 2008 Mumbai massacre, in which 166 people were killed.

© Jim Kouri

 

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Jim Kouri

Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police... (more)

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