Suspect in UK Plots Is Linked to Cargo Bomb Terrorists
Although the arrest of that suspect -- identified by the Daily Mail as a former British Airways computer expert -- was announced in February, his links with al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, hadn't previously been made public. "An AQAP associate was arrested here earlier this year," U.K. Home Secretary Teresa May said in a speech to the London-based Royal United Services Institute. "He is alleged to have been planning a terrorist attack in this country."
The Bangladesh-born suspect has been charged with plotting a suicide bombing and raising funds for terrorist organizations, and he is set to face trial in London in January.
During her speech to the independent military think-tank, May also revealed new details about the explosives-loaded package that was intercepted at England's East Midlands Airport on Friday -- another bomb was found at a parcel office in Dubai.
She noted that the bomb, believed to have been planted by AQAP, was "deeply concealed in the cartridge of a printer and connected to a hidden power source in sections of a mobile telephone," and could have blown up a passenger jet over the U.K. or the U.S. or on the ground.
"The specifics of this attack, notably the type of device and how it was concealed, were new to us," she said. "The principle of the attack, a device placed in unaccompanied baggage, was not." May added that the plot "bears some resemblance to the attack on Pan Am 103 over [the Scottish town of] Lockerbie in 1988," when a bomb, thought to have been hidden in a radio, exploded in the cargo hold, killing 270 people.
These revelations underline the growing international threat posed by the al-Qaida affiliate, and its determination to strike at British targets. On Wednesday, east London resident Roshonara Choudhry, 21, was sentenced to life in prison for attempting to stab British politician Stephen Timms to death. She became radicalized, the BBC reported, after watching online sermons by U.S.-born extremist cleric and AQAP ally Anwar al-Awlaki, who is thought to be hiding in Southern Yemen. And just last month, a British embassy vehicle driving through the capital Sana'a was hit by rocket-propelled grenades fired by AQAP terrorists. One diplomat was injured, and two passers-by were severely wounded.
May warned that the Yemen-based militants were now seeking to expand their influence by forging links with Somalia's al-Qaida aligned extremist group al-Shabab. The home secretary said it was well known that some British citizens were fighting in Somalia, and it "seems highly likely ... that if left to their own devices we would eventually see British extremists, trained and hardened on the streets of Mogadishu, returning to the U.K. and seeking to commit mass murder on the streets of London."