British Police Charge 9 Men, Arrested in Raids, With Preparing for Terrorist Acts
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LONDON -- A week after coordinated raids in three cities, the British police said Monday that they had charged nine of the 12 men they arrested, in a case that seemed to be a sign that Europe's concerns over potential terrorist attacks were spreading.
Three of the 12 men were released without charges, the West Midlands Police said in a statement shortly before the other nine appeared in court in London, accused of "engaging in conduct in preparation for acts of terrorism."
The nine men, including five who British news reports said were of Bangladeshi origin, were accused of offenses that included reconnoitering targets, conspiring to cause explosions and testing incendiary material. On Monday, Judge Howard Riddle ordered the men held in prison until a further hearing on Jan. 14.
News reports at the time of the arrests said that the alleged conspiracy in the case was not likely to produce an imminent act of terrorism. But British broadcasters, including the BBC and Channel 4, reported late Monday that the men were accused of plotting attacks to coincide with the Christmas holidays and had reconnoitered targets like the American Embassy, the London Stock Exchange and religious and political leaders.
They were also reported to have planned to use designs from a newsletter by Al Qaeda to make parcel bombs. There was no immediate official confirmation of the reports.
On Dec. 14, the police in Germany moved against two Salafist networks suspected of seeking the imposition of an Islamic state. Those arrests were seen as a reflection of growing concern in Berlin about the radical messages of some Islamic groups.
On Saturday, prosecutors in the Netherlands said they had arrested 12 Somalis suspected of plotting a terrorist attack, but by Monday six had been released.
European concerns about terrorism seemed to mount after a suicide attack this month in Sweden, by a Swede of Iraqi descent who had been living in Britain; terrorism arrests in Spain and France; and other alarms in Germany over fears of a terrorism attack modeled on the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India. The alerts have been given added weight by a warning in October from the State Department in Washington about reports of a planned attack in a European city.
The men charged in London with terrorism offenses, ages 19 to 28, were from three areas of Britain: Cardiff in Wales, Stoke-on-Trent in the English Midlands and London. The charges are related to various periods from Oct. 1 to Dec. 20, the day of their arrests.
Accusations against them include downloading and researching terrorism-related material from the Internet, the police said. The nine men were said to have agreed on potential targets.
The West Midlands Police said those charged from Cardiff were Gurukanth Desai, 28; Omar Sharif Latif, 26; and Abdul Malik Miah, 24. The London residents charged were Mohammed Moksudur Rahman Chowdhury, 20; and Shah Mohammed Lutfar Rahman, 28.
Those charged from Stoke-on-Trent were identified as Nazam Hussain, 25; Usman Khan, 19; Mohibur Rahman, 26; and Abul Bosher Mohammed Shahjahan, 26.
Sue Hemming, the head of the counterterrorism division of the Crown Prosecution Service, said in a statement that she was satisfied that there was enough evidence "for a realistic prospect of conviction, and it is in the public interest that these men should be charged with these offenses."
When the men were arrested, the BBC said they were linked to an investigation led by the MI5, Britain's domestic security service.
Britain's current assessment of the threat of a terrorist attack stands at severe, its second-highest level, meaning that an attack is seen as "highly likely," according to the MI5 Web site.
In the Netherlands on Monday, Wim de Bruin, a spokesman for the national prosecution office, said that the six released Somalis were no longer suspects and that the six others would remain under arrest until at least Tuesday.
The police picked up all 12 men in a sweep in Rotterdam late Friday, with special squads using sniffer dogs to raid four homes and an Internet cafe. They smashed windows and ceilings in the cafe and, according to witnesses, seized a dozen computers. The antiterrorism team also searched two motel rooms near a military base, where four of the detainees had registered, but the police provided no further information.
First Published December 27, 2010 11:50 pm