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Charges expected within days over airline 'terror plot'

Sean Rayment / London Telegraph | August 20 2006

Terrorism charges against the suspects allegedly involved in a plot to blow up transatlantic airliners are "imminent", The Sunday Telegraph has learnt.

The police are "hugely optimistic" that they will be able to bring charges against many of the suspects in the very near future, according to security sources.

It is also thought that anti-terrorist officers have found the liquid explosive which police believe was intended to be used to destroy up to 10 airliners.

The latest breakthrough came after it emerged that police had found up to six "martyrdom" video files on laptop computers confiscated during the raids across England 10 days ago.

Police also reportedly discovered bomb-making equipment in a woodland "hide" in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, close to where some of the suspects lived.

Although senior police officers are confident that charges will be brought against most of the suspects, it is unlikely that all of them will be charged.

One security source said: "Intelligence is not evidence and although there is intelligence to suggest that some of the suspects were involved in the plot it remains to be seen whether there is evidence against them all.

"The police are very busy, it is a complex and painstaking investigation and they will not be rushed into bringing charges. The key thing is that when the suspects are charged the charges stick."

While MI5 is understood to be delighted with the early successes of Operation Overt - the code name for the investigation - Whitehall sources have warned that there are "many more" ongoing plots underway in Britain, in which Islamist terrorists are planning to kill hundreds of people.

MI5 is also convinced that the alleged airline plot and many others are being coordinated by al-Qaeda operatives. A Whitehall source said: "MI5 believes al-Qaeda has been behind virtually all of the attacks, and those which have been thwarted in this country, right back to Richard Reid (who planned to destroy an aircraft with a bomb in his shoe). The plots are becoming more sophisticated and they are all linked to al-Qaeda."

Police have been granted more time to question the 23 suspects being held in a number of locations in London. They have another six days to interrogate 21 of them and another four days to question the other two before having to formally apply to a High Court judge for more time. The police can only hold them for up to 28 days - a date which will be reached on September 7 - after which they must be charged or released.

It has also emerged that a charity, Crescent Relief London, founded to help orphans and victims of disasters, is linked to some of the suspects.

Two sons of its founder, Abdul Rauf, are among those held. Rauf, a baker from Birmingham, is said to have severed his links with the charity. He is understood to have been detained in Islamabad, before boarding an international flight.

Azzam Tamimi, 51, a Muslim radical who has said he is prepared to be a suicide bomber, is expected to address 10,000 at an Islamic convention in Manchester today.

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