SCOTT SIMON, host:

Again, Rashid Rauf is a British-born citizen who was arrested yesterday. His brother was also arrested this week. They are among at least 24 suspects who've been taken into custody in connection with the plot uncovered Thursday to detonate liquid explosives on at least 10 flights bound for the United States from the United Kingdom.

Paul Wilkinson is chairman of the Center for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. Mr. Wilkinson, thanks for being with us.

Mr. PAUL WILKINSON (University of St. Andrews): My pleasure.

SIMON: And Pakistani officials say that Rashid Rauf was - they call him a key al-Qaida operative. Based on what you know, does that make sense to you?

Mr. WILKINSON: Yes, it does. According to the Minister of the Interior, Mr. Sherpao in Pakistan, he says that Rauf is an al-Qaida operative with linkages in Afghanistan. And he said specifically that the plot had wide international connections.

SIMON: Mr. Rauf is reportedly affiliated with a group called Jaish-I-Mohammed, that has some links to al-Qaida. What do you know about this group?

Mr. WILKINSON: They're an extremist group which initially was identified with the cause of fighting Indian authorities over Kashmir. So they're originally a Kashmiri extremist group. They were penetrated by and to a large extent taken over by those who support the ideology of al-Qaida. So it became an affiliate of al-Qaida and it was able to draw on support, safe haven and - and financial support from people on the Pakistan side of the border, because we know that although the Pakistan authorities are keen to play a key role in the war against terrorism, there are people in Pakistan who, as you know, are fanatically in support of al-Qaida and are still helping the groups which are affiliated to al-Qaida.

SIMON: Mr. Wilkinson, is there a finite supply of al-Qaida operatives and affiliated operatives? Because I think for the past few years a lot of people in the West have had the idea that if you arrest 24, 40 or - it must be said - sometimes kill 50 al-Qaida operatives, there are 200 more where that came from.

Mr. WILKINSON: I think there has been a continuing recruitment campaign by al-Qaida, and we have to take into account the evidence of, for example, Britain's own security service, MI5, which in evidence to a parliamentary committee said that the numbers of militants capable of terrorism of this kind in 2001, in the fall of 2001, was 250. By 2005 it had grown to 800. And in their latest assessment they're talking about well over 1,000, perhaps 1,200. For terrorists, that's a large number, a large pool of militants to draw upon.

SIMON: Is this the beginning, middle, or end of the investigation?

Mr. WILKINSON: Oh, I think we're at a very early stage, really. Under the present legislation the police can ask for further time to question in these terrorism cases, up to 28 days, as long as they have a good case which can be presented for holding people for a longer period. And I think people will recognize that in a complex case like this, particularly with international linkages, that kind of period of time is realistic.

SIMON: Paul Wilkinson, chairman of the Center for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at University of St. Andrews. Thanks very much.

Mr. WILKINSON: Thank you.

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