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Analysis: Terror fight goes online

  • Story Highlights
  • London man pleads guilty to planning to fly to Pakistan to commit acts of terror
  • Sohail Qureshi's target may have been coalition forces in Afghanistan, police believe
  • Acquaintance of Qureshi's had passed on details of Heathrow security arrangements
  • Case suggests that police are using Web effectively to trace terror networks
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By CNN's Andrew Carey
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(CNN) -- Several revealing security nuggets -- some encouraging, some worrying -- emerged when a London man pleaded guilty Tuesday to terror offences at the Old Bailey.

Sohail Qureshi admitted planning to fly to Pakistan to commit acts of terrorism.

Sohail Qureshi admitted planning to fly to Pakistan to commit "acts of terrorism." He was arrested at Heathrow Airport in October 2006 carrying thousands of pounds in cash plus night-sight equipment and medical supplies.

Entering the guilty plea meant he wasn't required to answer questions in court about his precise intentions. But searches through his Internet communications turned up a desire to "kill many" in his "operation."

Peter Clarke, the UK's top counterterror police officer, said he believed that coalition forces, possibly in Afghanistan, were the most likely target.

The worrying security nugget was the revelation that Qureshi had been in communication, by e-mail and via extremist Web forums, with a woman by the name of Samina Malik.

Malik was found guilty two months ago of possessing documents likely to be of use for acts of terrorism. She liked to call herself the "Lyrical Terrorist" and wrote poetry urging the killing of non-believers and the raising of children to be holy fighters.

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Malik worked air-side at Heathrow in a branch of the shop WH Smith and it emerged on Tuesday that she had passed on details of changes in security arrangements at the airport after a request to do so from Qureshi.

Investigators say that Internet communication records reveal that Malik was well aware of Qureshi's extremist views. The fact that someone cleared to work at London's busiest airport was passing on security information to someone about to commit a terrorist act must be a cause for concern.

More encouraging is the fact it's clear that police are using Internet communications with considerable success as they track down the networks of would-be terrorists and their accomplices.

Malik's arrest came after her details were found on Qureshi's computer. Police also say that Qureshi was in contact with other "extremists," which has presumably benefited other police investigations.

None of this comes as a surprise necessarily, but it does serve to underline the fact that the "battle in cyberspace" has more than one facet to it.

Yes, recruitment and radicalization is taking place on the Internet, but so is crime fighting. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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