Six British men who were detained during raids in Birmingham last week have been linked to an al Qaeda cell in Pakistan, and were planning to carry out suicide attacks. One additional suspect is being questioned by British authorities in connection with the plot.
Last week, six British men of Pakistani origin and a woman were arrested during an intelligence-driven counterterrorism operation led by the UK’s West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit [see Threat Matrix report, UK terror sweep nets 7 suspects]. Few details were known about the suspects or the terror plot at the time of the arrests, but as the suspects are scheduled to appear in West London Magistrates Court on Monday, more information has become available.
The purported terror cell is believed by security sources to be a part of an al Qaeda suicide bomb plot under the direction of terrorist leaders in Pakistan, according the BBC. Prior to the arrests, the suspects had been under MI5 surveillance for “several weeks,” and phone conversations were recorded that led officials to believe the cell was moving toward executing the plan but had “not yet reached the goal line.”
Ashik Ali, 26, and Irfan Nasser, 30, are accused of orchestrating a bombing campaign in which Ali had stated his intention to carry out a suicide attack.
Along with Irfan Khalid, 26, Irfan Nasser has also been accused of preparing for an act of terrorism, and the two men are alleged to have traveled to Pakistan for terror training and received guidance on bomb making. They are also said to have made a martyrdom film in connection with the plot.
Rahin Ahmed, 25, is accused of fundraising to support the planned terror attacks as well as helping others travel to Pakistan for terror training.
Mohammed Rizwan, 32, and Bahader Ali, 28 (Ashik’s brother), are both charged with withholding information since July 29, 2011 that could have prevented the planning of a terrorist act.
A seventh man, 20, was arrested on Thursday and continues to be questioned by authorities for his role in the plot. Under UK terror law, officers have until Sept. 29 to continue questioning the man before he has to be charged or released.
The status of the woman who was detained last week has not been disclosed. Last week, it was reported that the woman was being held under Terrorism Act 2000 for failing to disclose information relating to the plot.
Of the 14 homes searched by police, one belonged to Mohammed Irfan. In 2008, Irfan was sentenced to four years in prison for plotting to kidnap a British soldier and behead him “like a pig,” live on the Internet. He was released after serving less than two years and was not rearrested in connection with this case.
While the location of the training camp in Pakistan that was attended by Khalid and Nasser has not been disclosed, Western jihadists are known to train in the Mir Ali and Datta Khel areas in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan. And a jihadist who was set to become the head of the so-called Islamic Army of Great Britain, an al Qaeda branch, was killed by unmanned US strike aircraft in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan on Sept. 8, 2010 [see LWJ report, British, German jihadists involved in Europe plot killed in Predator strikes].
Abdul Jabbar, the short-lived leader of the Islamic Army of Great Britain, was said to have been present at a meeting attended by more than 300 jihadists, including members of al Qaeda and the Taliban, several months before he was killed. At that meeting, he was appointed the leader of the Islamic Army of Great Britain and was tasked with carrying out terror attacks in Britain, France, and Germany, using assault rifles and suicide vests.
Jabbar had earlier survived a drone strike on a militant training camp run by Hafiz Gul Bahadur, a commander allied with the Haqqani Network, an Afghan Taliban faction considered one of the most effective forces battling Western troops in Afghanistan.
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