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Terror plot: Internet cafes raided

A police officer stands in front of a passenger at Heathrow Airport.




Department of Homeland Security

LONDON, England (CNN) -- British police confirmed they had raided a series of Internet cafes in their investigation into an alleged plot to blow up as many as 10 trans-Atlantic aircraft.

There was no confirmation of any arrests in the raids in London, Birmingham and the Thames Valley region, west of the capital.

Meanwhile, a lawyer for two of 23 suspects in custody accused police of denying her full access to her clients. The attorney, Mudassar Arani, said British suspects' families had been moved to hotels.

Pakistan authorities said that the arrests of two British citizens and five Pakistanis last week directly contributed to terror arrests made Thursday in Britain.

One of the arrested men, Rashid Rauf, appeared before a Pakistani magistrate Saturday. U.S. and British sources said he had a key operational role in the alleged plot.

Most of the men held in custody in Britain and Pakistan are Pakistanis in their 20s.

British and American passengers underwent a third day of trip delays and stricter security measures because of heightened travel fears. Some flights were delayed up to four hours, and passengers carried plastic bags with necessities.

Liquids and gels are prohibited unless it can be shown they are necessary, and on British-originated flights, all carry-on luggage is banned.

Airlines warned the British government that air travel was threatening "to grind to a halt" because of the restrictions in place at airports.

At least one major airline complained about the way the British Airport Authority, which oversees Heathrow airport, was handling the intense security.

"BAA has failed to allow us to operate 100 percent of our schedule," said British Airways CEO Willie Walsh. "British Airways, along with other airlines, is ready and able to operate a full schedule. The weakness in the system today is getting the passengers processed and through the airport."

Walsh said his airline was forced to cancel 25 percent of its short-distance flights Saturday because of the airport's failure to cope with the situation.

One woman, who spoke to CNN at Dulles International Airport in Virginia, said her family had faced obstacles at every turn since leaving Johannesburg, South Africa.

"We left an hour late from Johannesburg because they had to hand-search everyone on the way in. We had to repack all our bags there and take all the liquids and gels and deodorants (out) ... and I barely got out my contact solution."

In London, in an exclusive interview with CNN's Dan Rivers, attorney Arani listed her complaints on behalf of her clients.

She said she was only allowed to meet with them for about five minutes Friday. She complained that they were prevented from calling their families, were being held in cold cells without blankets and warm clothes, and had been denied some food and water.

CNN has been unable to corroborate the attorney's allegations. The Metropolitan Police tell CNN they have not been made aware of any official complaint about the detainees' treatment.

President Bush, in his weekly radio address, said "the arrests underscored the very real and ongoing threat to the American people."

The terror threat level in Britain remained "critical" -- its highest designation.

According to a British intelligence official, the planned near-simultaneous attacks -- which one top U.S. official said were intended to be "a second September 11th" -- were foiled when a member of the country's Muslim community contacted authorities after noticing an acquaintance acting suspiciously.

An undercover British agent then infiltrated the group to gather information, U.S. government officials told CNN.

After the arrests were made in Pakistan, one of the alleged terrorist operatives there gave the "go" signal for the plot to go forward, a British official said.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Friday that U.S. officials were not yet prepared to directly link the alleged British plot to al Qaeda.

Law enforcement officials told CNN Friday that suspects in the alleged plot recently made phone calls to several cities in the United States, including Washington and New York. But the officials had no evidence there was a plot afoot to initiate activity in the United States.

One of the 24 men arrested was released Friday, but police would not give a reason. No one has been charged.

While police have not identified any of those arrested, 19 of them were identified Friday by the Bank of England, when the institution announced that it was freezing their assets.

The British suspects planned to mix a sports drink with a gel-like substance to create an explosive that could then be triggered with an iPod or cell phone, a senior congressional source told CNN. All of those items could have been carried on board without raising suspicions.

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