10 Aug 2006
Thursday August 10th will be a day to remember as British authorities foiled an attempt at what they described as “mass murder of an unimaginable scale”. By the close of the day, 24 suspects (most of them British Muslims of Pakistani origin) were in custody for plotting to blow up (mid air) several U.S bound airlines originating from Britain. The plot that allegedly involved using liquid explosives was in its final stages when British anti-terrorist police moved in quickly to apprehend the suspects in London, Birmingham and a third city. There were reports that other suspects were arrested in Pakistan as the police dragnet widened its search.
Following the raids, the British authorities raised the terror level to red (critical) and cancelled many flights coming into the U.K and grounded those taking off from the U.K. There were scenes of chaos, confusion and frustration at Heathrow airport as thousands of passengers scrambled to comply with new regulations that came into force. Hand baggages were banned except for very essential things like baby formula and medicines that must be carried in transparent plastic bags. Heathrow airport is one of the world’s busiest airports and it handles approximately 186000 passengers daily.
A grim faced president Bush thanked the British for foiling the plot that was aimed at British Airways and American airlines namely Continental, American and United. “This is a stark reminder that this nation is at war with Islamic Fascists”. Bush said. Michael Chertoff, U.S. secretary for homeland security, raised the threat level for incoming British flights to red.
Referring to the incident he said it was “suggestive of an Al Qaeda plot”.
There was certainly a lot of investment in organization and planning to pull off this relatively sophisticated terrorist plot. Liquids disguised as drinks were to be taken on board separately and later mixed during flight to produce an improvised explosive device (IED). It was reported that the terrorists were to simultaneously blow between six to ten aircrafts over the Atlantic. Sources told CNN that two of the plotters, left ‘matyrdom’ tapes to be played after the terrorist attack.
It has been revealed that police in Britain, U.S. and Pakistan had been cooperating to monitor the plot months back.
By the end of Thursday, there were signs that things had started easing as some planes started timidly taking off from British airports. It was estimated that by Friday, some degree of normalcy will return to British airports. This was relieving news to some 25,000 people delayed at Heathrow airport and others intending to travel within the next few days.
Meanwhile, the British home secretary says that threat levels will remain the same while operations against the plotters continue. This means unprecedented security checks and delays at airports. Passengers were advised to board aircrafts with only the most essential things like lenses without their cases, credit cards, pocket size wallets and female hygienic materials. Laptops, mobile telephones and other digital appliances will not be allowed in the cabin.
Njei Moses Timah