Fri, Aug 18, 2006 - Page 1 News List

UK granted more time to quiz `terror plotters'

INVESTIGATION One suspect was released but two dozen others arrested last week had their detentions extended, as air traffic finally started to return to normal

AFP , LONDON

Britain released one suspect and gained permission to hold 23 others for more questioning as the investigation into the alleged plot to blow up US-bound passenger jets mid-flight entered a second week yesterday.

The released suspect had been arrested on Tuesday in the Thames Valley area outside London, and is the second to be released since British police and intelligence services carried out pre-dawn raids on the suspects' homes.

Police searches were continuing at 22 out of a total 46 residential and business premises in London, the West Midlands and Thames Valley which have been searched so far in connection with the investigation.

The most high profile venue was in High Wycombe, northwest of London, where specialist officers have been seen combing woodland for traces of explosives or explosive tests.

Police late on Wednesday were granted more time to question 23 suspects, a spokesman for London's Metropolitan Police said. Police were allowed to detain 21 of the suspects until Aug. 23, and the other two until Aug. 21.

Meanwhile, UK Home Secretary John Reid warned on Wednesday that Europe as a whole is facing a "very real" and "persistent" risk of a devastating attack, in a meeting with EU interior ministers in London to map out a common strategy.

They agreed their efforts should aim to prevent terror attacks and protect the public, as well as pursue and arrest terrorists, following the talks in London.

In Islamabad, officials said Pakistan was holding a man who is "apparently related" to one of the British suspects, and that a senior al-Qaeda figure in Afghanistan is thought to have planned the foiled attacks.

Reid refused to confirm or deny if Britain was seeking the extradition of suspects -- two British and five Pakistanis -- from Pakistan, but he expressed his "gratitude" to Islamabad for its role in the probe.

Meanwhile, flights were virtually back to normal yesterday at major British airports a week after the foiled attacks. British Airways, which scratched more than 1,900 flights over the past seven days, said it was canceling only 19 short-haul flights out of London's Heathrow airport yesterday.

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