More Suspects Sought in British Terrorist Attacks
DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Debbie Elliott.
British authorities are on the hunt for more suspects in yesterday's attack on the Glasgow airport and Friday's discovery of two car bombs in London. Police have arrested five people in connection with the suspected terrorist attacks. In a televised interview today on the BBC, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called the terrorist threat to his country long term and sustained, and he said the latest incidents point to one group.
Prime Minister GORDON BROWN (United Kingdom): It is clear that we are dealing in general terms with people who are associated with al-Qaida in a number of incidents that have happened all across the world. It wants to make its pointless propaganda effort by inflicting the maximum damage irrespective of religion on civilian life.
ELLIOTT: Brown has raised the terror threat in the U.K. to its highest level. Here in the U.S., Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff told Fox News Sunday there's no reason to believe this country is at a higher risk.
Secretary MICHAEL CHERTOFF (U.S. Department of Homeland Security): Obviously from our standpoint, our principal concern is whether there is any link to the homeland, and at this point in time, we do not see any linkage. We do not have any evidence of a linkage, but that's the issue we're most carefully monitoring to see whether there's any potential impacts here in this country. We have taken some precautions. You will see some additional security measures at airports and transit points during this holiday week. But that's really a matter of prudence as opposed to a response to a specific piece of intelligence.
ELLIOTT: Those precautions include putting more air marshals on overseas flights. NPR's Rob Gifford has been following the investigation from London and joins us now. Rob, tell us more about the people detained and what's been happening there today.
ROB GIFFORD: Well, in addition to the two men who bailed out of that flaming jeep yesterday in Glasgow, they're both being detained still in Glasgow - one of them in a critical condition in the hospital. There are now three other people, a 26-year-old man and a 27-year-old woman, detained last night in northwest England in a car driving on a highway there - the 26-year-old man arrested today in Liverpool. And they are all being held in London and being questioned. We don't know much more about them, and the police are not giving too much information away.
Also today, some houses being searched in Scotland and in England. Again, no details being given by the government, but clearly they have some leads that they're following up, and they're searching houses across the country.
ELLIOTT: And what about the investigation itself? How is it progressing?
GIFFORD: Well, in addition to questioning these suspects, of course, and especially those two who were involved in the Glasgow incident yesterday, I think a lot of the focus at the moment is on the three vehicles, the two in London - found in London on Friday, which did not explode and the jeep that was driven into Glasgow Airport terminal yesterday.
Forensic experts say that these vehicles provide a treasure trove - if we can use that term - of information, of fingerprints, actual and metaphorical, if you like, of the signature if you like, of the people who put them together - of how they put them together, where the materials came from and lots of information about the people who put them together. So that's a very important lead.
The police are linking the London and Glasgow incidents together very closely. But again, they're not saying why. They're not giving details of what that link is.
ELLIOTT: Rob, this has proven to be a test for Gordon Brown, the new prime minister, not even a week into office. How are he and his new government handling things?
GIFFORD: Yes, it certainly has been a baptism of fire for Gordon Brown. And so far, I think he's getting fairly good approval ratings, if you like. He spoke today this morning on the main BBC morning show, spoke of really trying to get that balance right between reassuring people how the government and police are doing everything in their power but also warning for further vigilance.
There's one rather interesting person involved in this, in the new Brown government. It's a woman called Jackie Smith. She's 44 years old. She's the first female home secretary, one of the most senior jobs in the British government. She was a surprise appointment in her first day in the office on Friday. Suddenly, she was thrust into this, so a lot of eyes on her as well - very new into this new government.
ELLIOTT: How are Britons dealing with all this?
GIFFORD: Well, I think of it of a combination, really. Heathrow Airport, one of the terminals there was closed briefly this evening - opened soon after a suspect package was found not to be a problem after all. So there's clearly some jitters in the security services for sure. But also over the weekend, we've just had the concert for Diana today on the occasion of what would have been her 46th birthday. We've Wimbledon ongoing. We've had the Gay Pride March yesterday.
So I think in many ways, Londoners are taking it all in their stride, as we've seen, really, since the bombings of July 7th. People talk about the spirit of the Blitz from World War II, and I think it's true. I think Londoners are really trying to get on with business as usual, as are people across the United Kingdom.
ELLIOTT: Just with a little bit more security in sight.
GIFFORD: I think so, and I think they are aware of that and they're trying to get the balance right too.
ELLIOTT: NPR's Rob Gifford, thanks so much.
GIFFORD: Thank you very much, Debbie.
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