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Britain Charges 11, Releases 1 in Aug. 10 Case

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

Prosecutors in Britain have charged 11 people with conspiracy to commit terror acts in connection with the alleged plot to blow up airliners headed for the United States. Ten days ago, British police broke up what they say was a plan to smuggle liquid explosives aboard as many as ten aircraft.

NPR's Guy Raz reports from London.

GUY RAZ reporting:

Hyperbole is not a characteristic of British investigators, so when on August 10 a senior police officer here called the alleged terror plot unimaginable, the country took notice. But ten days on, the stirrings of skepticism began to emerge in the British press.

Many doubted the government's strong allegations and the public was growing tired of airport delays. Britain's indignant Muslim community complained its young people were being unfairly targeted. But then the announcement, delivered today by lead Crown prosecutor Susan Hemming.

Ms. SUSAN HEMMING (Lead Crown Prosecutor, Great Britain): This morning I made a decision that there was sufficient evidence and authorized with the approval of the Director of Public Prosecution the charge of 11 individuals. Eight are currently being charged with two offenses relating to the alleged plot to manufacture and smuggle the component parts of improvised explosive devices onto aircraft and assemble and detonate them on board.

RAZ: Standing beside Hemming, Peter Clark, head of the Antiterrorism Unit at the Metropolitan Police, laid out some of the material evidence uncovered.

Mr. PETER CLARK (Antiterrorism Unit Chief, Metropolitan Police): There is evidence from surveillance carried out before the 10th of August. This includes important, indeed highly significant, video and audio recordings. I can also tell you that since the 10th of August we have found bomb-making equipment. There are chemicals, including hydrogen peroxide, electrical components, documents and other items. We've also found a number of video recordings. These are sometimes referred to as martyrdom videos.

RAZ: Clark's revelations were the first official confirmation of what many reporters have known from other sources. British investigators are compelled to act with discretion. Any leak to the media can compromise the case, so much of the information reporters have gathered up until today has come from Washington and Pakistan.

Still, there are questions over whether those in custody were capable of carrying out such a sophisticated plot. There is no indication that any of the suspects received high level instruction at terrorist training camps. What is becoming clear from the evidence provided by police is that some of those arrested were determined to see the plan through.

This surprises Intias Kadir(ph), a prominent member of the East London mosque that many of the suspects attended.

Mr. INTIAS KADIR (London resident): The immediate reaction was shock. I wasn't expecting this lot of people to be charged.

RAZ: Kadir had personally vouched for many of the suspects last week. He was visibly shaken today.

There are 11 other people who have not been charged, but police are expected to ask a judge on Wednesday for more time to question them. In his brief statement, Antiterror Chief Peter Clark said the investigation is not over. The scale, he said, in reference to the search for clues, is immense.

Guy Raz, NPR News, London Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Guy Raz
Guy Raz is an independent producer who has been described by the New York Times as "one of the most popular podcasters in history."