Thu, Aug 24, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Decision pending on UK terror suspects; 11 await final call

AP , LONDON

The 11 suspects still in custody but not charged in the alleged plot to blow up several trans-Atlantic airliners were scheduled to be charged or set free yesterday, as investigators keep gathering evidence for a trial that may take as long as two years to begin.

The decision, to be made in a closed-door hearing involving only lawyers, a district judge and investigators, is the next step as British detectives attempt to piece together thousands of bits of information to back their claims of thwarting a globe-spanning terror plot.

British law permits holding suspects in terror investigations for as long as 28 days without charge.

Conspiracy

So far, 11 people have been charged in the alleged foiled plot which police said entailed blowing up as many as 10 airliners bound for the US with liquid-based explosives.

On Monday, eight men were charged with two counts each of conspiracy to commit murder and preparing to commit terrorism.

Two more individuals, including a woman, were charged with failing to disclose information that could help prevent a terrorist act.

A teenager was charged with possessing material which could be used to prepare a terrorist act.

The 11 suspects that have not yet been charged have been in custody since Aug. 10, when police descended on London, Birmingham and High Wycombe, about 50km northwest of the capital.

Significant evidence

On Monday, Peter Clarke, who oversees the Metropolitan Police's anti-terrorism unit, said months of surveillance had produced "significant video and audio recordings" regarding the alleged bombing plot.

He said the investigation had also unveiled bombing-making chemicals, including hydrogen peroxide, as well as electrical components.

More than 8,000 items of data storage, such as compact discs, DVDs and memory sticks, were found. Maps of Afghanistan, suicide notes from willing terrorists and books on explosives were also seized, officials said.

Investigators said the evidence was still being examined, including fingerprints, DNA and handwriting.

British officials also confirmed that the plot involved the manufacture of explosives, which would then be assembled and detonated on board the target airliners.

Al-Qaeda?

Investigators have not revealed if the alleged airline plot suspects were linked to al-Qaeda.

Pakistani officials have linked people arrested there over the alleged conspiracy to al-Qaeda militants.

In a town near the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, law enforcement authorities continued to interrogate Rashid Rauf, a Briton of Pakistani descent, over his alleged key role in the plot, officials said.

Rauf's brother, Tayib, was not among those charged on Monday, but is still in custody.

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