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11 British Terror Plot Suspects Charged

August 21, 2006 at 6:30 PM EST
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JEFFREY BROWN: Simon Israel, welcome. Eight people were charged today with direct involvement in the plot. Tell us about the charges.

SIMON ISRAEL, ITV News Correspondent: Well, the charges relate to a period between the 1st of January this year and the 10th of August when the raids took place.

And essentially there are two charges each for each of these eight men. The first is, in effect, to smuggling on board explosive devices and components and then putting them together and detonating them on a flight. And the second charge is conspiracy to murder.

JEFFREY BROWN: And three others were charged with some sort of indirect involvement; what does that mean?

SIMON ISRAEL: Yes. Three others are charged with other terrorist offenses, if you like. One is a mother with an 8-month-old baby and another is a 17-year-old who legally I can’t name. But he’s being charged with possessing material likely to be of use for terrorist purposes. And they include suicide notes and wills of others, a map of Afghanistan, and a book on improvised explosives.

A global investigation

JEFFREY BROWN: Well, what more is known about the suspects themselves from today's press conference?

SIMON ISRAEL: Not a lot about the individuals. Over the last 11 days since the raids took place, we've learned of a certain amount about certain individuals. And among those charged with the most serious offenses, in effect, this suicide bomb plot, if you like, aboard transatlantic flights, they do include the president of an Islamic society at one university in London and a trainee probation officer, as well.

But essentially today's press conference was to map out, first of all, the initial charges, because we have to also remember there are 11 others still in custody.

And, secondly, the scale of this operation. And the police made it perfectly clear today that this was an investigation of global proportions, immense. They made a list of several things that they have so far achieved, if you like. It's 69 searches and amounting to an enormous mass of information.

I mean, notably, the amount of information they have obtained from 400 computers, if you printed it out, would fill the entire headquarters of the Metropolitan Police at Scotland Yard, and that is a 20-story building. So that's just an indication of the scale of this investigation.

And let's not forget, this investigation is not just confined to the borders of the United Kingdom. There are ongoing investigations in Pakistan and a number of other countries, too.

JEFFREY BROWN: Within the U.K., though, what kind of places are they looking at mostly?

SIMON ISRAEL: Well, they are still carrying out searches. One major search in the woods in a town called High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, roughly about 20 to 30 miles outside of London. And this one senior officer said to me today they've completely and utterly torn up these woods.

And I understand that a number of crucial bits of evidence have been found. The reports have been that devices, for example, or the components of potential explosive devices have been found. And also what's clear, too, from today's press conference is that a number of what they term "martyrdom videos," what we might call suicide videos, have been found recorded on these various computers that have been seized.

Sifting through evidence

JEFFREY BROWN: Were there any surprises today from the officials or from other people you've been talking to about what's been found so far or the scope of the operation?

SIMON ISRAEL: I think we've known -- there have been indications certainly from your side, from Mr. Chertoff, your homeland security person, who had hinted at the very beginning that they'd found suicide videos and a number of other things. I think what is yet to come out is truly the scale of this.

We have today witnessed the charges for the initial investigation, the one that achieved all the headlines, the plan to blow up, take out a number of transatlantic flights. That is the initial charges that has been at the forefront of this investigation.

But I'm led to understand this whole inquiry -- there are many, many layers to this inquiry of other things, which they haven't yet divulged, involving possibly associations with other groups, connections as have emerged out of Pakistan with al-Qaida.

And so, therefore, you can imagine that the scale of this investigation is involving not just the plot, if you like, the transatlantic airline plot, but a number of other things, too, which they haven't yet talked about.

JEFFREY BROWN: There was, I understand, one woman released today. Any significance to that?

SIMON ISRAEL: I don't think we should read too much significance into it. After all, they have arrested in total, during this operation, 24 people, and she's the second person to have been released. So we are talking of 11 charges, 11 people still in custody.

And they come up in front of a judge or their cases come up in front of a judge in two days' time, when the police must apply, if you like, for further warrants, extensions as we call them here, where they may detain them for a further seven days with ongoing investigations.

But you have to understand that, as the police made clear today, the scale of this operation means there's a huge amount of forensic evidence still to do, a huge amount of chemical testing, of analysis of computers, of following money all over the place. And these things still take a lot of time.

And so still amassing this huge amount of evidence means that the police have not yet got to the point, they believe, where they have maybe put together their strongest case, if that is possible, against the 11 others who are still in custody.

JEFFREY BROWN: OK. Simon Israel, thanks very much for joining us.

SIMON ISRAEL: Thank you.