- The Washington Times - Friday, August 11, 2006

1:34 p.m.

LONDON — The Bank of England, on orders from Britains Treasury Department, today named and froze the assets of 19 of the 24 suspects arrested by police on charges of plotting to blow up jetliners flying between Britain and the United States.

The suspects, all identified as British Muslims between the ages of 17 and 35, were undergoing questioning by police and MI5 intelligence agents, who foiled the plot in a series of raids in London, Birmingham and the Thames Valley west of the capital.

The men had names of Muslim origin, many of them common in Pakistan, Associated Press reported. At least one of the 24 arrested reportedly was a woman with a small child; two others were converts to Islam. One of the suspects reportedly worked at Heathrow Airport.

In addition, five Pakistanis have been arrested in Pakistan as suspected “facilitators” of the plot, a government official said, and two Britons were arrested there about a week ago.

British authorities said the plotters were conspiring to carry hand baggage loaded with liquid explosives onto as many as 10 airliners flying trans-Atlantic routes and detonate them onboard. News reports said intended targets included flights to New York City, Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles and Washington.

The Guardian newspaper, citing unidentified British government sources, said after the first two arrests were made in Pakistan, a message was sent to Britain telling the plotters: “Do your attacks now.” That message was intercepted and decoded earlier this week, the newspaper said.

In an official statement today, the Bank of England said its freezing of suspects assets means it would be a crime to make their money available, directly or indirectly, without a license from the Treasury.

There was no immediate explanation as to why the other five purported plotters were not included.

“Financial institutions and other persons are requested to check whether they maintain any accounts or otherwise hold any funds, other financial assets, economic benefits and economic resources for the individuals named, and, if so, they should freeze the accounts or other funds and report their findings to the Bank of England,” the statement said.

The banks statement marked the first identification of the suspects by name since the case broke yesterday morning.

The bank said it acted under powers granted by the United Nations in the fight against international terrorism initiated in the wake of the September 11 attacks.

The move was ordered by Prime Minister Tony Blairs Treasury head, Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown. Ed Balls, economic secretary to the Treasury, said the assets freeze was imposed after Scotland Yard, the British police agency, and MI5 urged it.

“The Treasury will review the need for further use of our asset-freezing powers as we receive further advice from the police and security services,” Mr. Balls said.

Meanwhile, Britain remained on the highest security alert, “critical,” which was ordered before dawn yesterday, although authorities remained convinced that they had captured what Home Secretary John Reid described as the “main players” in the plot.

“As I said yesterday,” Mr. Reid told reporters, “we think that the main suspects are in custody, but we always err on the side of caution. Neither the police nor government are in any way complacent.”

“This is an ongoing operation,” the home secretary insisted, “so the Joint Terrorism Analysis Center has advised that the threat level should remain critical as a precautionary measure in order to protect the public.”

Thousands of travelers were stuck at London Heathrow, the nations biggest aviation hub, and other airports across the country yesterday as hundreds of flights were canceled and hundreds more were delayed. Particularly severe delays hit all flights bounds for the United States.

It was more of the same today, as more flights were canceled. Others were delayed, often severely, as travelers and airport staff tried to cope with the stringent security precautions that were installed hastily yesterday, including the banning of all hand luggage from all flights.

The strictures also included the continued barring of liquid, from fizzy drinks to hairstyling gels and even toothpaste. It is in such containers, authorities fear, that terrorists could conceal their deadly explosives, to be detonated in flight — killing themselves and likely everyone else aboard.

The disruption at airports was expected to continue for another 48 hours, airport officials said, but all the new and often inconvenient safety measures that have been put in place are likely to remain a part of air travel in Britain for the foreseeable future.

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