Link Sought Between U.K. Suspects, Subway Bombers
DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:
There's new information today about the alleged plot to blow as many as 10 U.S.-bound planes from Britain. Police in the U.K. are now investigating possible links between the suspects arrested this week and the terrorists who carried out the July 7, 2005 bombings in London.
NPR's Guy Raz is in London with the latest.
GUY RAZ reporting:
The angry young men in Britain's Pakistani diaspora now face new scrutiny. It is mostly young British-born Pakistani Muslims who've been implicated in at least 17 alleged terror plots in this country since September 11, 2001. Since that date, British police have arrested more than 1,000 people, the bulk of them of Pakistani origin. In this latest case, it's no different. Most of the suspects in custody are believed to have ties to that South Asian country. At least two of them took recent trips to Pakistan, not unusual necessarily, but those trips may have been related to a man name Rashid Rauf.
Rauf is a British citizen who was arrested in Pakistan a few days ago. He happens to be the brother of 22-year-old Tayib Rauf, who is one of the 24 people arrested Wednesday night in Britain. Investigators are suggesting that Rauf may have been the ringleader and that the British Muslims who carried out last year's London bombings may have known some of the suspects now in custody.
Most of Britain's prominent Muslim organizations took out full-page ads in newspapers on Saturday, insisting that Britain's foreign policy is to blame.
Mr. MOHAMMED ABDUL BARI (Leader, Muslim Council of Britain): The problem is these young people sometimes, because of the foreign policy, or any other issues, are fooled by fringe elements.
RAZ: That's Mohammed Abdul Bari, head of the Muslim Council of Britain. He and other community leaders - like Mohammed Shafiq of the Ramadan Foundations - say unless British foreign policy changes, the country can expect more violence.
Mr. MOHAMMED SHAFIQ (Ramadan Foundations): Because if we don't deal with these issues now, then I'm sadly having to say now that there are going to be more terrorist attacks in the future.
RAZ: Muslim leaders say Britain's involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it's reluctance to force a Middle East cease-fire, fuels rage that manifests itself in terrorism. But British government ministers have rejected that argument. They have called the letter a form of blackmail. Kim Howles is a member of parliament and a senior Foreign Office official.
Mr. KIM HOWLES (British Foreign Office): No government worth its salt can formulate foreign policy on the basis of a threat that maybe a part of the population won't like it and will resort to terrorism. That's absolutely crazy. We live in a democracy and the people have an opportunity during general elections, if they don't like the government, to get rid of it.
RAZ: The debate is likely to become more heated, especially so long as police are reluctant to release any evidence that implicates those arrested this week. But recent activity by some of those in custody is suspicious. Besides trips to Pakistan, two of those arrested - young men in their 20s - recently purchased a home in east London and paid in full, and in cash.
Guy Raz, NPR News, London.