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6 charged in Britain terrorist plot

New York Times / September 27, 2011

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LONDON - Six men have been charged with planning an act of terrorism in Britain, as part of a plot that included training in Pakistan, preparing for suicide bombings, and constructing an explosive device, the police said yesterday.

The men, ages 25 to 32, are all from Birmingham, Britain’s second-largest city. Four were charged with preparing for an act of terrorism in the UK, and the other two were charged with failing to disclose information.

A seventh man was being questioned, the West Midlands police force said in a statement.

The men were arrested last week in a raid led by the counterterrorism unit of Britain’s West Midlands police.

The police have given no details of the alleged plot, but a statement said the arrests were part of a major operation prompted by intelligence work.

That formulation has often been used to describe a lengthy period of surveillance, including phone-tapping, by undercover units and Britain’s secret intelligence and security agencies, MI5 and MI6.

The police statement said the six men appeared in a magistrate’s court in west London yesterday and were denied bail.

Two of the men, Irfan Nasser, 30, and Irfan Khalid, 26, are facing 12 counts, including planning a suicide bombing campaign/event, making a martyrdom film, and traveling to Pakistan for training in terrorism, including the making of bombs, weapons, and poison.

These are the first major terrorism arrests in Britain in several months.

In recent years, major British cities have been fertile grounds for terrorist recruiters.

US officials engaged in counterterrorism operations have said the proliferation of Islamic militant cells in Britain with links to Al Qaeda and other jihadist organizations, many of them involving people from Britain’s large population of families with roots in Pakistan, are a threat to US as well as British security.

Britain’s counterterrorism capabilities have been expanded to deal with the threat, but top officials of MI5, the domestic security agency, have said a shortage of qualified agents forces it to prioritize, leaving some leads unexploited.

That was part of MI5’s explanation for its failure to pursue fragmentary clues that might have led to the plotters who carried out the 2005 suicide bombings on London’s transit system, which killed 56 people, including the four bombers. It was the worst terrorist attack ever carried out in mainland Britain.

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