Thursday, August 10, 2006

'Mass murder on an unimaginable scale'

The Mail & Guardian Online is reporting on a press conference held in London a short while ago during which the Deputy commissioner of London's Metropolitan Police spoke in chilling terms of the scope of the plot that had been foiled:
Police said on Wednesday that a foiled plot to blow up aircraft flying from Britain to the United States was "an attempt to commit mass murder on an unimaginable scale".

Deputy Commissioner Paul Stephenson, from London's Metropolitan Police, told a news conference that officers are confident the operation, which saw 21 people arrested, disrupted a bid to cause "untold death and destruction".

Speaking outside the Met's New Scotland Yard headquarters, the officer added: "We believe that the terrorists' aim was to smuggle explosives on to planes in hand luggage and to detonate them in flight."

Britain raised its security-threat level to "critical", which means it expects an attack imminently. The Home Office website showed the rating was raised to "critical" from "severe" earlier on Thursday.

Arrests were made in London, the central English city of Birmingham and the Thames Valley region of south-east England, he added, revealing that a number of properties are now being searched.

He said the police and security services had public safety uppermost in their minds when conducting the operation, urging people to remain calm and be patient with the long delays at British airports.

"We can't stress too highly the severity that this plot represented. Put simply, this was intended to be mass murder on an unimaginable scale," he added.
The article also reports on measures annouced in the United States by the Department of Homeland Security:
The US ordered its highest state of alert on Thursday for US-bound planes from Britain. The US Department of Homeland Security also said it has raised the alert to the second-highest level for all other commercial aircraft.

"The Department of Homeland Security is taking immediate steps to increase security measures in the aviation sector in coordination with heightened security precautions in the United Kingdom," it said in a statement. The threat level for commercial flights from Britain to the United States has been raised to "severe, or red," it said.

"This adjustment reflects the critical, or highest, alert level that has been implemented in the United Kingdom," it added. "To defend further against any remaining threat from this plot, we will also raise the threat level to high, or orange, for all commercial aviation operating in or destined for the United States."

In addition, the department said that "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".

The changes took effect at 8am GMT, said the official statement, adding that travellers "should also anticipate additional security measures within the airport and at screening checkpoints".
Source: 'Mass murder on an unimaginable scale' - Mail & Guardian Online

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