Nine terror suspects become first held in UK for more than 14 days

-File photo

Nine people on Thursday became the first terror suspects to be held in British jails without being charged for longer than 14 days after a court granted police more time to quiz them as the investigation into a foiled alleged plot to blow up US-bound passenger jets continued.
Police were granted warrants to detain eight terror suspects until August 30, and one until Thursday, a police spokeswoman told AFP. Two others were released without charge on Wednesday.
“Officers from the Metropolitan Police Service Anti-terrorist Branch were this evening (Wednesday) granted warrants of further detention for nine people arrested during the anti-terrorist operation that took place overnight on August 9-10, 2006,” a police statement read.
Under British anti-terror laws, police can detain terrorism suspects for up to 28 days without charging them with an offence, subject to regular court approval. Previous legislation only allowed police to hold terror suspects for 14 days without charge.
A total of 25 people have been arrested since police carried out pre-dawn raids in London and around Britain on August 10 in connection with an alleged terror plot to blow up US-bound passenger jets flying from London’s Heathrow airport.
Eleven have since been charged, and Wednesday’s news brought the total number of suspects released without charge to five.
“In all operations some people may be released without charge while others may remain in custody for further investigation,” a police spokesman said.
“This is not unusual and is to be expected in large and complex criminal enquiries where a number of arrests have taken place.”
Police have executed 70 total searches since the investigation began, a spokeswoman for London’s Metropolitan Police told AFP on Thursday.
The 11 accused — including a young mother and a minor — appeared in a magistrates court in London 12 days after police raids in and around the British capital.
Eight facing the most serious charges of conspiracy to murder and preparing acts of terrorism were told to return to court on September 4 to appear before judge Anne Rafferty at the Old Bailey criminal court in central London — the traditional venue for Britain’s biggest criminal trials.
The three others are to return to the magistrates’ court next Tuesday.
Of the three, two were charged with withholding information about an impending terrorist attack.
The third, a 17-year-old youth who cannot be named because he is a minor, was accused of possessing a book about bomb-making, suicide notes and wills, and a map of Afghanistan with information “likely to be useful” to someone planning an attack.
The eight facing the most serious charges were men mainly from east London: Hussain, 25; Umar Islam, 28; Arafat Waheed Khan, 25; Ahmed Abdullah Ali, 25; Ibrahim Savant, 25; Waheed Zaman, 22; Assaid Ali Sarwar, 26; and Adam Khatib, 19.
They were followed by Cossar Ali, 23, the only woman accused and the mother of an eight-month-old son, and Mehran Hussain, 23.
“The investigation is far from complete. The scale is immense. Enquiries will span the globe,” said Peter Clarke, chief anti-terrorist officer at London’s Metropolitan Police, on Monday as the charges were announced.
Seven other people, including two Britons, are being held in Pakistan, where the authorities have suggested a possible link with Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda network, which carried out the September 11 attacks in the United States.
Security at major airports was dramatically increased in the days after the August 10 raids, with a ban imposed on hand baggage and on carry-on beverages. The plot allegedly involved liquid explosives disguised as innocent-looking drinks being smuggled onto US airliners at British airports.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2006