Thursday, August 05, 2004

BBC-Al-Qaeda 'planned Heathrow raid'

Intelligence officials are probing reports claiming that a man arrested in Pakistan was helping to plan an attack on Heathrow airport by al-Qaeda.
Naeem Noor Khan is accused of being al-Qaeda's "dispatch boy" who passed coded messages between agents, including details of US terror targets.

The Times newspaper reports that Khan had detailed maps of the airport.

But a BBC correspondent in Pakistan says investigators have not confirmed the existence of a Heathrow plot.

The Times claims that Mr Khan visited Britain at least six times in recent years.

He had been in contact with senior al-Qaeda figures over the Heathrow plot, the paper alleges.

And an anonymous source has told the AFP news agency that information from the arrest has provided a "deep insight" into the workings of al-Qaeda.

If there had been a specific, credible threat then we would let the public know
Home Office spokeswoman

The source told AFP: "[Khan] was involved in planning for attacks at Heathrow airport London some time ago and was wanted by the US Government."
The source was unable to say exactly when the Heathrow attack was planned, but claimed that information from Khan's computers had been passed on to both US and UK officials.

Communications expert

The BBC's correspondent in Pakistan, Zaffar Abbas, told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that nobody was going on the record connecting Khan to a Heathrow plot.

He said: "Even in the background briefings they have not suggested any plan about Heathrow."

He added that the Pakistani investigators had not revealed details of what they had found on Khan's computers.

He said: "All they have been saying is 'yes he was the communications expert working for al-Qaeda'.

"But the impression that was initially given by the investigators was that he was acting more as a post office or dispatch boy, getting information from one source, turning it into coded messages and passing it on to other sources."

The Home Office said it would not comment on specific intelligence but confirmed that there had not been a specific threat.

A spokeswoman said: "If there had been a specific, credible threat then we would let the public know."

Khan's capture is one of at least 18 arrests of suspected al-Qaeda operatives in Pakistan since 12 July.

Information stored on Khan's CDs and computers is believed to have led to a raised terror alert in the US.

Story from BBC NEWS:

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