Terror plot against Britain thwarted by drone strike
Published 29/09/2010 | 10:33
An al-Qaeda plot to attack Britain in a Mumbai-style attack has been thwarted by a drone strike in Pakistan.
British Muslims training with al-Qaeda were planning an armed rampage through London as part of a terrorist spectacular aimed at European capitals, sources told the Daily Telegraph.
It is thought that the group was in the final stages of its preparations for co-ordinated attacks, thought to be on the capital cities of Britain, France and Germany.
The plot was foiled after Western intelligence agencies, including MI6 and GCHQ, uncovered the plans by senior al-Qaeda operatives in the lawless tribal areas.
The CIA launched a series of attacks against militants in the area using unmanned Predator drones armed with Hellfire missiles.
A senior al-Qaeda commander from Egypt, was killed in North Waziristan, disrupting the planned attacks.
Britain has remained on a heightened state of alert since January and Jonathan Evans, the director general of MI5, warned two weeks ago “the fact that there are real plots uncovered on a fairly regular basis demonstrates that there is a persistent intent on the part of Al Qaida and its associates to attack the UK.”
British counter-terrorism officials have been warning about the threat of a Mumbai style attack on major cities for two years. An estimated 173 people died and 300 were injured in the terrorist attacks on the Indian city.
Janet Napolitano, the US Secretary for Homeland Security, warned last week that there was “increased activity by a more diverse set of groups and a more diverse set of threats” that was “directed at the West generally” and included the use of firearms.
She is expected to discuss the latest threat with European counterparts at a UN aviation security meeting this week in Montreal.
In France, the Eiffel Tower was evacuated for the second time in a month on Tuesday following a bomb alert.
The French national police chief, Frederic Pechenard, warned last week that tip-offs from “friendly” intelligence services had put the country on high alert and there was “serious evidence coming from reliable intelligence sources telling us that there is a risk of a major attack.”
Mr Pechenard said he feared two scenarios – the attempted assassination of a public figure or an attempted strike on a crowded public area like a metro train or department store.
The US military detained a resident from Hamburg, Germany in Afghanistan in July who allegedly revealed details of planned attacks on targets in Germany and Europe and is said to have been a “major source” of information on future attacks.
The man, identified in Germany as “Ahmad S”, aged 36, was said to be a member of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which is closely associated with al-Qaeda.
Some of his group from Hamburg are known to have attended a terrorist training camp where they learned how to use firearms and explosives.
The US has fired at least 21 missiles so far this month in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas, the highest monthly total in the past six years.
On Saturday, Sheikh Fateh a senior al-Qaeda commander from Egypt, was killed in North Waziristan.
Fateh, also known as Abdul Razzaq, was said to have taken over operational command of al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
He was reportedly killed in a Datsun pickup truck accompanied by three local people, two of whom were identified as Haji Niaz and Naimatullah.
Shortly after Saturday’s attack, Pakistani officials reported that four militants were killed in a strike on a vehicle in Datta Khel, a village area near the town of Miranshah, in North Waziristan but did not release their identities.
On Tuesday, another US drone killed four more militants, destroying a rebel compound in Zeba village close to the Afghan border in the district of South Waziristan, Pakistani intelligence officials said.