British Terrorism Suspects Appear in Court Ten men and one woman appear in a London court on charges of violating anti-terrorism laws. Prosecutors said Monday they would charge the group in connection with an alleged plot to blow up U.S.-bound airliners.
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British Terrorism Suspects Appear in Court

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British Terrorism Suspects Appear in Court

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne. Good morning. Eleven people - 10 men and one woman -are being arraigned in London court today in connection with the alleged plot to blow up airliners headed for the U.S. They have been charged with violating Britain's anti-terrorism laws. Prosecutors announced the charges yesterday, 10 days after police arrested two dozen people suspected of planning to smuggle liquid explosives aboard aircraft.

NPR's Guy Raz has been following the case from London and joins us now. And, Guy, talk to us about the charges. What are they, exactly?

GUY RAZ reporting:

Renee, there are basically two different sets of charges. Eight of these 11 suspects are to be charged with two counts of violating this country's anti-terrorism laws. Now that first charge is conspiracy to murder; the second is conspiracy to prepare an act of terrorism. And then the three others are to be charged with a lesser crime of failing to inform the police about this impending plot. There are eleven other people who are still in custody. They haven't been charged, but police basically say they will continue to question them. And we got some hints yesterday from the prosecutors that more charges are on the way.

MONTAGNE: And it seems as if police have some pretty compelling evidence.

RAZ: They do. And what's unusual about it is how much of it they disclosed yesterday, because normally investigators in this country are completely tight-lipped about what they're prepared to tell the public. And yesterday the head of London's anti-terrorism division gave us a pretty clear window into what these suspects were planning to do. I mean, they found bomb-making chemicals, electronic equipment, bomb-making manuals, and then pretty ominously they found some suicide videos that are often referred to as martyrdom videos. And then on top of that the anti-terrorism division head Peter Clarke basically said that they also have some pretty compelling audio and video recordings of the suspects who have been under surveillance now since last December.

MONTAGNE: And there have been few details about the people being charged, but there are a few new ones.

RAZ: There are. Nine of them are men. One is a 17-year-old boy, which makes ten. And then the eleventh is actually a 23-year-old woman. Her name is Cossar Ali. And her husband, Ahmed, was also charged yesterday. They together have an eight-month-old child.

Now most of those charged yesterday are from the East London neighborhood of Walthamstow. And I spent some time there last week talking mainly with people who knew these guys. And without exception, people were basically saying they didn't believe these young people were involved. I ended up having a conversation with Imtiaz Qadir(ph), who is a pretty prominent member of the Lea Bridge mosque, where many of these suspects attended. And he was pretty skeptical. Let me play you a bit of what he told me last week.

Mr. IMTIAZ QADIR (Lea Bridge Mosque): This is totally out of character, what's being portrayed in the news at the moment. They are very gentle and they are very good practicing young men.

RAZ: But when he spoke yesterday, Renee, he was in total shock. Qadir was basically saying he couldn't believe it because, as he said, he knows these men. There are two others who are quite interesting. Both are recent converts to Islam. One is called Ibrahim Savant. He was born Oliver Savant. The other is Brian Young. He changed his name about two years ago to Umar Islam. Now most of those suspects charged either went to school together or they knew each other from the neighborhood, and at least two of them were involved in a missionary sect which is based out of Pakistan called Tablighi Jamaat(ph), which of course now is coming under heavy scrutiny here in Britain.

MONTAGNE: Guy, thanks very much for speaking with us. NPR's Guy Raz speaking from London.

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