Britain swoops on 'major terrorist plot': PM



LONDON, Robin Millard - British police moved to stop a "major terrorist plot" by arresting 12 mostly Pakistani suspects linked to Al-Qaeda across northwest England, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Thursday.
He was speaking after Britain's top anti-terror chief resigned following a security blunder that almost torpedoed a surveillance operation which had homed in on the suspects.



They were seized in raids on Wednesday which were hastily brought forward after Scotland Yard's Assistant Commissioner Bob Quick inadvertently revealed the details of the operation.
Quick resigned over the gaffe in a new blow for the force, which was already under fire over a death during protests against the G20 summit last week.
He was photographed as he arrived at Brown's Downing Street office on Wednesday with a secret document about the suspected plot clearly visible -- including details of where the raids would take place.
Photographs of the document, printed in the Evening Standard newspaper Thursday, showed the operation was "AQ-driven," meaning Al-Qaeda.
Police confirmed 11 of the men arrested under the Terrorism Act were Pakistani nationals, prompting Brown to urge Islamabad to do more to root out terror.
"We know that there are links between terrorists in Britain and terrorists in Pakistan," he said.
"That is an important issue for us to follow through and that's why I will be talking to President (Asif Ali) Zardari about what Pakistan can do to help us in the future."
Brown defended the decision to move the raids forward to Wednesday evening once it became clear that the police swoop risked being compromised.
"We have been investigating a major terrorist plot and we have got to act early. Our first concern is always the safety of the public. It is right that we took the urgent action that we did over the course of yesterday," he said.
"We are dealing with a very big terrorist plot. We have been following it for some time. There were a number of people who are suspected of it who have been arrested. That police operation was successful."
The head of Greater Manchester Police, Peter Fahy, was more guarded when asked if the threat was from Al-Qaeda.
"We know what is the nature of the threat to this country and where it comes from," he said, adding: "Clearly links to other countries is always something that's going to feature in any investigation of this type."
The raids took place in the cities of Manchester and Liverpool -- including at John Moores University -- as well as in the nearby town of Clitheroe.
The Times newspaper said there were plans to attack a nightclub and shopping centre complex in Manchester, Britain's third city.
Announcing his decision to quit, Quick said in a statement: "I have today offered my resignation in the knowledge that my action could have compromised a major counter-terrorism operation."
Quick is no stranger to controversy, having played a key role in the November 2008 arrest of an opposition lawmaker as part of a government department leak inquiry, which triggered a political furore.
But his blunder adds to Scotland Yard's woes this week after the emergence of a video showing an officer violently pushing a man during protests ahead of last week's G20 summit, minutes before he collapsed and died.
The officer who pushed Ian Tomlinson, who has not been named, was suspended from his job, Scotland Yard said Thursday.
Britain has been on high security alert ever since the July 2005 attacks in London, which killed 56 people including four suicide bombers, and failed car bomb attacks in London and Glasgow in June 2007.
The security threat remains on its second highest level, severe. MI5 chief Jonathan Evans said in January that Al-Qaeda leaders based in Pakistan still intended to mount attacks on Britain -- and had the capacity to do so.
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Friday, April 10th 2009
Robin Millard
           


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