Thursday, August 10, 2006

The attack that wasn't (we hope)

Initial reporting with plots like this is always a little variable. The Times of London says this plot targeted 12 planes. Other sources say 10.

The sort of planes that could have been attacked were the Boeing 767s and 777s. I know that some of the airlines mentioned in reports use these jets for their transatlantic flights. These jets can have a number of different configurations to allow about 200 - 500 passengers per flight. A reasonable estimate would place about 3,000 innocent lives in jeopardy with this plot.

One interesting facet to this plot is that it closely matches a 1990s plot from 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who has been detained since 2003. The New York Times recounts that plot and the parallels.

The Guardian has the "statement given by Deputy Commissioner Paul Stephenson of Scotland Yard on today's anti-terrorist operation."

The Financial Times:
‘‘This was intended to be mass murder on an unimaginable scale,” said deputy commissioner Paul Stephenson.

Twenty-five people had been arrested, commissioner Stephenson added. The majority of the arrests were made in London with some in the Thames Valley, west of London, and Birmingham. Of the 25 people arrested, 21 remained in custody and searches were ongoing at a number of addresses. Police believe all the ‘major players’ involved in the terror plot are in custody.
BBC News:
BBC security correspondent Gordon Corera said the plot was thought to have involved a series of "waves" of simultaneous attacks, targeting three planes each time.

He also said the plan "revolved around liquids of some kind".

"Officials say the explosives would have been sophisticated and extremely effective," our correspondent said.
The Guardian:
It is believed the intention was to set off near simultaneous blasts on flights, probably bound for the US, using explosives smuggled into passenger cabins inside hand luggage.

Police were holding 21 people in custody in London following overnight raids by anti-terror officers and MI5. A decision was made to move suddenly following months of surveillance.

There were no firm indications of plans for an attack to have been carried out today, but the US homeland security secretary, Michael Chertoff, said it was a "well advanced" scheme. He said the plot was based in Britain but was "international in scope".

The US attorney general, Alberto Gonzalez, said it was "suggestive of al-Qaida tactics".
The Times of London: "Pakistani intelligence helped foil bombing plot"

In a related story from yesterday's Times of London:
THE police and MI5 have foiled at least thirteen suspected international terrorist plots in Britain in the past six years, security sources have told The Times.