Mon, Aug 21, 2006 - Page 5 News List

UK police expect to lay terror charges soon

INVESTIGATIONS One newspaper said that the police are building a strong case after uncovering caches of bomb-making equipment and other incriminating evidence

AFP , LONDON

British police investigating an alleged plot to blow up US-bound airliners are optimistic they will be able to soon charge many of the 23 suspects in custody here, reports said yesterday.

The newspaper reports come after the BBC said that detectives have recovered "martyrdom videos" as well as a suitcase containing components needed to make a bomb.

Senior police and government officials told the Sunday Times that more than half of the 23 suspects held over the alleged plot to blow up the trans-Atlantic airliners are expected to be charged with terrorist offenses.

Most of the 23 can be held until Wednesday before police have to ask a judge to further extend their detention, police say. Under Brit-ain's anti-terror laws, police can hold them up to 28 days before charging or releasing them.

Two people arrested by the police have already been released.

The Sunday Times said that police are building a strong case after having uncovered bomb-making equipment, chemicals, a large sum of cash, at least one gun and "significant" documents.

The BBC, quoting unofficial police sources, reported that detectives found on laptops at least half a dozen "martyrdom videos" apparently recorded by some of the suspects as they prepared for suicide attacks.

London's Metropolitan Police declined to comment on veracity the report.

A police spokeswoman told reporters late on Saturday that investigators are still searching 12 locations. Since announcing Aug. 10 that they had foiled the plot, they have obtained more than 50 search warrants.

Senior sources quoted by the Sunday Times claim that the first batch of suspects will be charged with terrorism offenses within the next 10 days and more than half of those being held are expected to be charged.

The police "are very buoyant, very confident that the majority of these people will face terrorism charges," one official told the paper.

The police did not expect a repeat of events in June when a raid in London's northeastern Forest Gate neighborhood failed to uncover evidence in support of intelligence of a chemical bomb plot.

Security sources quoted by the Sunday Telegraph said that the police are "hugely optimistic" that they will be able to bring charges against many of the suspects in the very near future.

Britain's domestic intelligence agency MI5 is convinced that the airline plot and many others are being coordinated by al-Qaeda operatives, according to the Telegraph, quoting an unidentified government official.

Meanwhile, the watchdog Charity Commission said that it is in the process of evaluating reports potentially linking some suspects to Crescent Relief London, a British aid group that raised money for earthquake relief in Pakistan last year.

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