| A policeman outside one of the houses in London raided as part of the investigation. (AFP)
London, Aug. 11: British Prime Minister Tony Blair today called Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf from his holiday home in the Caribbean to express gratitude for help in busting the plot to blow up several aircraft in flight.
A spokesman for Blair said the Prime Minister “thanked him for his assistance with counter-terrorism issues”.
The state of alert in Britain remained “critical” and police named 19 suspects in the plot to destroy up to 10 aircraft flying between the UK and the US. Their assets were frozen.
After suggestions yesterday that most of the 23 men and one woman taken into custody were Britons of Pakistani origin, Islamabad pulled off a diplomatic coup by indicating it now saw itself as part of the special relationship that linked the intelligence services of the UK and the US.
This might seem a little ironic in India which suspects groups based in Pakistan are linked to the Mumbai train bombings and other atrocities.
It was claimed that the British authorities moved quickly on Wednesday night on the basis of information obtained from two Britons arrested in Lahore and Karachi 6-10 days ago.
Pakistan named Rashid Rauf as one of the two. Rauf is said to be a relative of one of those held in Britain.
Five other people, all Pakistanis and linked to the two British Pakistanis, were later arrested in Pakistan. “The arrests were made prior to the action in London,” the official added.
A militant arrested near the Afghan-Pakistan border several weeks ago provided a lead that played a role in “unearthing the plot”.
Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence is said to have warned the British secret service MI6 of the involvement of Lashkar-e-Toiba in the gathering plot, it was reported.
Lashkar has been held responsible for the Mumbai train bombings.
US officials said substantial sums of money had been wired from Pakistan to two of the alleged ringleaders in Britain to buy airline tickets.
One report said they were planning a “dry run” to see if the mechanics of the plot worked — and hinted that this was what persuaded the British authorities to move in.
It has been claimed that August 16 was to be the day of bombing.
Pakistan foreign ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam today gave interviews to the British media in which she said: “These (the arrests) are the results of active cooperation over a period of time between Pakistan, the United Kingdom and the United States.”
She mentioned “Kashmir” as a possible reason why young Muslims in the UK were becoming radicalised.