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And I'm Robert Siegel.
Eleven people charged under Britain's antiterrorism laws were arraigned in a London court today. The suspects are accused of planning to use liquid explosives to blow up several airliners bound for the U.S.
NPR's Guy Raz reports from London.
GUY RAZ reporting:
One by one, the police vans hurtled along the Thymes River embankment. Then a hard right turn onto Horseferry Road. Stuffed behind barricades, photographers craned to get a shot. Reporters angled to throw out questions. But the blackened windows of the police vans were impenetrable and the vehicles drove into Westminster Magistrate Court through a sealed entrance.
Less than two weeks after they were arrested, 11 people - ten men and one woman - accused of planning the biggest terror attack since September 11th were arraigned separately. The men wore gray, prison-issued trousers and white T-shirts. No one except the judge and the lawyers said a word.
A few hours later the police vans moved again, now en route to the maximum security Belmarsh Prison, home for these suspects for the foreseeable future. Legal experts don't expect this case to go to trial for at least a year, and until then police will work day and night. Roy Ram should know. He just retired as head of Scotland Yard's Special Operations Unit.
Mr. ROY RAM (Retired, Scotland Yard): The amount of work that needs to be done to analyze this mountain of forensic intelligence is just enormous and it will take the police some time.
RAZ: This is one of the biggest investigations in modern British history. Every police unit, every intelligence agency is involved. So it's probably why Paul Wilkinson, chair of the Terrorism Studies Department at St. Andrew's University, compares this plot to the downing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988.
Mr. PAUL WILKINSON (St. Andrew's University): The police believe that they are dealing with a very exceptional, unprecedented scale of terrorist conspiracy. And that explains the huge resources they're putting into it and this is, I think, the reason why it has an exceptional character.
RAZ: Consensus is growing here among both academics and those on the periphery of the intelligence community that the plot was serious. There's little doubt, though, that police were under pressure, likely self-imposed, to come forward with evidence to stem the growing public skepticism. It is unusual for investigators here to pander to media and public demands, but in this case, says former Police Commander Roy Ram, the police had little choice but to describe the discovery of bomb-making chemicals and so-called martyrdom videos.
Mr. WILKINSON: This investigation has caused massive disruption to the U.K., to air travelers. It is really something in everybody's mind. And I think that the thought was the public needs to know just how serious this is to justify this level of disruption.
RAZ: Eleven other suspects are still in police custody. They haven't been charged yet and police are widely expected to ask a judge tomorrow for more time to question them.
Guy Raz, NPR News, London.
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