| The half-brother of Heather Stewart-Whyte, a British model (in picture), is among the arrested suspects.
Islamabad, Aug. 12 (Agencies): Pervez Musharraf may have earned a pat from Tony Blair but almost every trail in the foiled plot to bomb planes is leading to someone with a Pakistani connection.
Two suspects, variously described as brothers or relatives, arrested in Pakistan and Britain have emerged as key figures in the conspiracy. An al Qaida commander, based in Pakistan and said to be a skilled explosives expert, is being seen as the person who choreographed the plot.
The name of Lashkar-e-Toiba, suspected to be behind a chain of big strikes in India, has also begun to crop up. The trail of the cash meant to be used in the attack is also weaving its way from a British charity, which sent funds for quake relief, to three persons linked to Pakistan-held Kashmir.
Pakistani authorities have arrested seven men and detained 10 more who were questioned today to ascertain whether they were linked to the bombing plan.
The arrest of British citizen Rashid Rauf in Pakistan prompted an associate of his in Karachi to call another man nabbed in Britain, asking him to go ahead with the planned attacks on passenger jets with liquid explosives.
This phone call was intercepted and it helped British security agencies to foil the plot targeting 10 airliners. Rashid’s relative — a report said they are brothers — Tayib Rauf is one of the 24 men arrested in Britain.
Pakistani officials said they were looking for two or three more suspects, including Matiur Rehman, the explosives expert and a senior member of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi that has links with al Qaida.
Rashid was arrested in an area bordering Afghanistan almost a week before police in London foiled the plot on August 10. Pakistan’s interior minister Aftab Khan Sherpao said: “We arrested him from the border area and on his disclosure, we shared the information with British authorities, which led to further arrests in Britain.”
The money angle is also keeping investigators busy. According to a report, a huge amount was remitted by the charity to the accounts of three individuals.
Two of the recipients are British citizens of Kashmir origin while the third is an Islamabad-based builder, also with roots in Kashmir. All were arrested in the last two weeks from three different locations.
While Islamabad’s cooperation in busting the plot has been appreciated in Britain, the media there has begun to ask why Musharraf has still not addressed issues that foster the growth of extremist elements in Pakistan.