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Muslim tipoff 'led to arrests'




Great Britain
United States
Acts of terror

LONDON, England (CNN) -- A British intelligence official has told CNN that the original information about a plot to down commercial jetliners in mid-Atlantic with explosives came from a tip from the Muslim community in Britain.

The official said the tip resulted from a person who had been concerned about the activities of an acquaintance after the July 7 terror attacks in London.

Also, U.S. government officials say there were two phone calls made from London to the United States recently by suspects. Those calls were tracked down and investigated, but there is no evidence of any involvement of people in America in the alleged plot.

The alleged plot to smuggle liquid explosives onto planes has led to drastic new security measures at airports around the world.

Passengers in the U.S. will face a second security check starting Friday, the day after huge queues of people dumped shampoo, lotion and water before boarding planes. (Read about the latest situation at U.S. airports)

A number of men were in the "final stages" of a plot to simultaneously blow up as many as 10 jets leaving Britain for the U.S., sending the planes and thousands of passengers into the Atlantic Ocean, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said.

British and Pakistani authorities teamed up to thwart the attacks, and 24 men were arrested in raids in Britain, authorities said Thursday.

The Bank of England on Friday froze the funds of 19 suspects who were arrested in connection with the alleged terror plot, a British Treasury spokesman said. (Suspects' names)

Speaking Friday, UK Home Secretary John Reid said although officials believed the main suspects were in custody, the UK threat level remained "critical," the highest level.

He said UK citizens faced a "common threat" and appealed for tolerance and resilience.

Reid said Friday that Britain was grateful for Pakistan's cooperation in breaking up the suspected plot.

The arrests of two British citizens and four Pakistanis last week directly contributed to terror arrests made Thursday in Britain, a senior Pakistani intelligence source told CNN Friday. (Full story)

The United States on Friday renewed its warning to U.S. citizens to defer non-essential travel to Pakistan amid rising concerns over terror activity that would be directed against U.S. interests.

The U.S. Embassy in New Delhi Friday warned American citizens of possible terrorist attacks across India in the coming week. (Full story)

The men detained in Britain Thursday had not bought plane tickets, the officials said, but they were in the process of perusing the Internet to find flights to various cities that had similar departure times.

An undercover British agent had infiltrated the alleged plotters, giving the authorities intelligence on the alleged plan, several U.S. government officials said. (Watch as neighbors describe the dramatic arrests -- 2:18)

Two of the suspects recently traveled to Pakistan and later received money wired from there, senior U.S. government sources said. (Watch how the plot had hallmarks of al Qaeda -- 3:19)

Among those arrested were a Muslim charity worker and a Heathrow Airport employee with an all-area access pass, according to Britain's Channel 4.

The suspects were planning to stage a test run within a couple of days, said a U.S. intelligence official.

The suspected terrorists had been under surveillance in Britain since last December, Channel 4 reported.

A senior congressional source said it is believed the plotters planned to mix a British sports drink with a gel-like substance to make a potent explosive that could be ignited with an MP3 player or cell phone. (Watch how liquid explosives could be devastating -- 2:32)

The sports drink could be combined with a peroxide-based paste to form a potent "explosive cocktail," if properly done, said a U.S. counterterrorism official.

"There are strong reasons to believe the materials in a beverage like that could have been part of the formula," the official said.

As many as 50 people were involved in the plot, an internal Department of Homeland Security document said.

Information gathered after the arrests in Pakistan convinced British investigators they had to act urgently to stop the plot, sources said.

Two of the suspects left "martyrdom tapes," according to sources familiar with the details of the British investigation.

Chertoff said the plans were "suggestive of an al Qaeda plot," and President Bush said the arrests are a "stark reminder" that the U.S. is "at war with Islamic fascists." (Watch Bush say what the arrests mean for the U.S. -- 2:37)

Bush thanked British Prime Minister Tony Blair for "busting this plot." (Full story)

Plot felt worldwide

Authorities immediately banned all passengers headed to or departing from U.S. airports from carrying any liquid in their carry-ons. The massive lines that resulted at security checkpoints made air travel chaotic worldwide as flights were delayed or canceled. (Full story)

The effects of the plot rippled across the globe.

  • The U.S. raised the terror threat level to "severe," or red, for all flights leaving Britain for the United States. Britain raised its alert level to "critical." (Full story)
  • Air passengers across Europe faced a second day of delays on Friday, though the situation had eased from the previous day when London's Heathrow Airport was closed to many incoming flights. (Full story)
  • Besides banning carry-on bags, British police are also prohibiting passengers from carrying electronic key fobs, which have the potential to trigger bombs. (Watch travel chaos at Heathrow -- 2:41)
  • A U.S. administration official said the plot targeted Continental, United, British Airways and American Airlines flights to New York, Washington and California. (Map of flight delaysexternal link)
  • Indications are that at least 21 of those arrested are British citizens and some were of Pakistani ethnicity, a senior U.S. intelligence official said.
  • In a sign of the heightened security, Chertoff said the U.S. was dispatching extra air marshals to Britain.
  • 'Mass murder on an unimaginable scale'

    Chertoff said the plotters were "getting close to the execution phase."

    "There were very concrete steps under way to execute all elements of the plan," he said.

    The plot was "intended to be mass murder on an unimaginable scale," London's Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner Paul Stephenson said. (Full story)

    Chertoff said the plan was reminiscent of a plot by September 11 coordinator Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who in 1995 had envisioned detonating bombs on 11 airlines possibly traveling over the Pacific Ocean.

    The plot was "as sophisticated as any we have seen in recent years as far as terrorism is concerned," Chertoff said. (Watch Chertoff describe the "cutting-edge" plot -- 7:38)

    The nation's overall threat level has not changed, but the threat level has been raised to "high," or orange, for all commercial flights operating in or coming to the United States, the DHS said.

    Thursday was the first time the DHS has raised the threat level for a specific group of flights.

    "Due to the nature of the threat revealed by this investigation, we are prohibiting any liquids, including beverages, hair gels, and lotions from being carried on the airplane," a DHS statement said.

    Increased security means airline passengers around the country should show up at least two hours early for all flights, an official with the Transportation Security Administration said. (Watch U.S. passengers cope with new rules -- 2:30)

    CNN Justice Correspondent Kelli Arena contributed to this report

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