Bomb Plot Details Leak Out; Travelers Face Delays

British media — quoting police sources — are providing more details of how explosives might have been triggered in mid-air. Meanwhile, new security measures mean more delays for travelers.

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Britain remains on its highest level of alert today as police continue to question 24 suspects in what has been called the biggest terrorist plot since 9/11. The British government identified 19 of the 24 suspects accused of planning to blow up airliners bound for the United States.

Coming up, we'll hear from the neighborhood where many of the arrests were made. And we'll hear about the role Pakistan is playing.

First, to NPR's Rob Gifford in London.

ROB GIFFORD: The British government has not released large amounts of information about the ongoing investigation, except one very important statement given out by the Bank of England, which gave the names of 19 of the 24 alleged plotters, and announced that their assets had been frozen. The 24 were being interrogated for a second day today, and they're thought to include a young mother among them.

Investigators are understood to be focusing on gathering forensic evidence from the homes of the suspects, business premises and computers, and on analyzing financial records. Home Secretary John Reid warned against anyone dropping their guard.

JOHN REID: We think that the main suspects are in custody, but we always err on the side of caution. We can never be certain, and therefore we want to be sure that alongside the operational interventions we made, we maintain a very high level of vigilance and the necessary restrictions in the aviation sector.

GIFFORD: A senior Pakistani government official said today that at least seven people, including two British nationals of Pakistani origin, have been arrested in Pakistan. One of them was described as a British al-Qaida operative named Rashid Raulph(ph), and the official said his arrest had led to the wave of detentions in Britain yesterday.

The arrests in Britain have once again prompted a fierce debate within the Muslim community and among opponents of Britain's close alliance to the United States. George Galloway is a member of Parliament for the largely Asian community of Bethknoll Greenen Bow(ph) in London's East End.

GEORGE GALLOWAY: How come so many young British men would be prepared to incinerate themselves and thousands of others? How come this radicalization is gathering pace in our own country and around the world? And I'm afraid any sensible person has to conclude that it's connected to the foreign policy, the role that our country is playing in the world, because of the foreign policy of George W. Bush.

GIFFORD: Home Secretary John Reid rejected this outright and defended the British government's policies.

REID: Whatever is claimed as justification for these acts of terrorism, they are not justified on any grounds. In combating international terrorism, however, it is not sufficient just to use military means or a security apparatus. That is a necessary condition of combating it, but it isn't sufficient. And that is why, in addressing problems of impoverishment, of perceived injustice, of political problems left unresolved, that the British government has been so active.

GIFFORD: At Heathrow Airport today, there were still delays and nerves were a little frayed. But many travelers, like David Panado(ph) from Britian and Anders Rook from Sweden, seemed understanding of the increased security.

DAVID PANADO: It's no worry, really. Just more of an inconvenience, because you can't take your things like iPods and the such like on the plane. And books. It's ridiculous.

ANDERS ROOK: I'm a frequent flyer. So whatever they do here is very much (unintelligible). So when they do these things, at least I know that someone is thinking about these things. And I'm quite happy about that.

GIFFORD: As the interrogation continues and Britain returns to some kind of normality, it's the link with Pakistan that is emerging as perhaps the most crucial element of the investigation.

Rob Gifford, NPR News, London.

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