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UK made arrests on Washington pressure: Plane attack was not imminent: official

Dawn.com | August 14 2006

The Bush administration pressured the British authorities to arrest the suspects of a London terror plot at least a week before they had planned to do so, a US television channel reported on Sunday.

NBC News reported that US and British authorities had a significant disagreement over when to move in on the suspects in the alleged plot to bring down trans-Atlantic airliners bound for the United States.

A British official said the uk police were planning to continue to run surveillance for at least another week to try to obtain more evidence, while American officials pressured them to arrest the suspects sooner.

In contrast to previous reports, the official suggested an attack was not imminent, saying the suspects had not yet purchased any airline tickets. In fact, some did not even have passports.

The source did say, however, that police believe one UK-based suspect was ready to conduct a ‘dry run’. British authorities had wanted to let him go forward with part of the plan, but the Americans balked.

An aide to President George Bush denied the account.

“There was unprecedented cooperation and coordination between the US, the UK and Pakistani officials throughout the case,” said Frances Townsend, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, “and we worked together to protect our citizens from harm while ensuring that we gathered as much info as possible to bring the plotters to justice. There was no disagreement between US and UK officials.”

The British official said the Americans also argued over the timing of the arrest of suspected ringleader Rashid Rauf in Pakistan, warning that if he was not taken into custody immediately, the US would ‘render’ him or pressure the Pakistani government to arrest him.

British security was concerned that Mr Rauf be taken into custody “in circumstances where there was due process,” according to the official, so that he could be tried in British courts. Ultimately, the official says, Mr Rauf was arrested over the objections of the British.

The official said that some suspects were known to the security services even before the London subway bombings last year.

Monitoring of Mr Rauf, in particular, apparently played a critical role, revealing that the plotters had tested the explosive liquid mixture they planned to use at a location outside Britain.

NBC News had previously reported that the explosive mixture was tested in Pakistan.

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