If they really got Al Qaeda's UK Emir,
then this is an even bigger coup in the war on terror. There is thought to be one more major terrorist attack planned for this fall, and his capture may have derailed that, as well.
SECURITY sources believe that a man arrested in last week’s anti- terror raids in Britain is Al-Qaeda’s leader in this country.
Home Office officials say that one of those arrested is suspected not only of masterminding the foiled plot to bring down up to nine transatlantic airliners, but also of involvement in other planned atrocities over the past few years.
They believe that he was instrumental in sending the ringleader of at least one previous British terror plot for training at a camp in Pakistan last year. He is described by counter-terrorist officials at MI5 as the senior figure in a British terror network involving Kashmiri, north African and Iraqi cells.
Scotland Yard believes that the plan to bring down airliners involved up to 20 terrorists who were planning to smuggle liquid bomb components in hand luggage onto nine British and American passenger jets.
Their targets were planes leaving Heathrow and possibly three other British airports later this month.
The bombs were to be assembled on board by combining peroxide and acid-based substances into liquid explosives. The plan was to explode the devices simultaneously as the planes headed for cities in America.
Paul Stephenson, deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan police, said it was a plot “to commit mass murder on an unimaginable scale”. It is estimated that as many as 3,000 people could have been killed.
The thwarting of the alleged plot has, however, failed to quash continuing fears among counter-terrorist experts. Senior security officials have briefed ministers that a “second phase” of attacks may be about to be launched.
At least two suspects escaped last Wednesday night’s police raids. Although they are not thought to be significant players, there remain concerns that they may now be galvanised into taking some form of unspecified action.
Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al-Qaeda’s deputy head, is said to have warned in a message placed on a restricted extremists’ website last month that the terrorist group was planning two large-scale attacks this autumn.
The FBI has assigned 200 agents to follow up any leads that come out of the British investigation. Security sources said that separate surveillance operations by police and MI5 were continuing into a variety of suspected plots by other terror cells.
These included plans, said to be in their early stages, to target ferry ports, the railway network and the London Underground. Police say they are also stepping up patrols at some mainline railway stations.