'Double link' from air terror plot to 7/7 bombers


Last updated at 23:14 13 August 2006

At least two of the men arrested over the airline terror plot could have links with the July 7 bombers, say intelligence officers.

One held by Scotland Yard is said to have attended the same training area in Pakistan as Sadique Khan, who led last year's attacks on London Underground trains and a bus.

It is not clear whether the British-born Muslim, who we shall call X, was at the training area at the same time as Khan. But Pakistani authorities say X was there with a known Al Qaeda planner now in custody.

In addition, they say, an explosives expert from the former Soviet Union who showed Khan and other Britons how to make bombs out of household chemicals was present at the same time as X.

The second significant link to Pakistan and the London bombers involves a voice message allegedly found on a telephone discovered in the home of one of the 7/7 bombers. It is claimed that the message was left by one of two British Muslims arrested by Pakistan as part of the airline bomb inquiry last week.

Pakistani officials say there is evidence that Britons had been training in the port city of Karachi and in the tribal agency areas near the Afghan border in the use of improvised explosive devices and that large sums of money had been transferred from the city to the bank accounts of suspects in UK.

They also suggested that up to seven of the suspects held had visited Pakistan and that at least one had been to Afghanistan.

One of the two Britons arrested in Pakistan is Rashid Rauf, described as a 'key suspect' in the airline bomb inquiry. His brother Tayib, 22, is among those held in London.

Police are investigating whether Rashid, 25, who left his Birmingham home following the murder of a relative four years ago, is the link between the bomb suspects and the man named by U.S. intelligence as its suspected mastermind, Matiur Rehman.

Top of Pakistan's 'most wanted' list, 30-year- old Rehman, who was known to have been planning a ' spectacular' to mark the anniversary of the 9/11 bombings, was on the run last night.

His confidential police files seen by the Daily Mail show that he has used a string of different names and overseen the training of many international terror suspects.

A leader of Lashkar- e-Jhangvi, a Pakistani Islamic militant group, he is already wanted in connection with two assassination attempts on President General Pervez Musharraf in December 2003, attacks on minority Shi'ite Muslims and on Western targets. Rehman has a £90,000 reward on his head.

His name surfaced during the interrogation of at least one of the 17 suspects arrested in Pakistan in connection with the airline plot.

Four of the suspects were detained in a Punjabi village following a tip- off from the British High Commission in Islamabad, acting on information-from MI5. 'Matiur Rehman is on the run, but we will find him,' said a Pakistani official, describing him as a 'very dangerous person'.

Rashid Rauf is suspected of having travelled to the tribal agency areas which are the heartland of Al Qaeda - and where Rehman is known to have operated.

Interior minister Aftab Khan Sherpao confirmed that Rauf was suspected of having ties with Al Qaeda. American and Pakistani officials claimed he had trained in Al Qaeda camps and is 'affiliated' to Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. July 7 bomber Shehzad Tanweer, 22, who visited Pakistan with Khan, is known to have met the terror group's operatives in the months before the London suicide attacks.

Privately, British investigators are said to be furious at the arrest of Rauf in Pakistan. They had requested that he merely be monitored while surveillance went on against the other alleged cell members.

But U.S. agencies are reported to have placed pressure on the Pakistani authorities to arrest what they saw as a 'major' suspect.

Details of the suspected July 7 connection came as investigators in London said they were 'confident' they would have sufficient evidence to bring charges under the terrorism laws against more than a dozen of the 22 suspects still held.

It was revealed yesterday that police have hours of video tapes, recordings and photographs of the men gleaned during surveillance operations which have gone on for months.

Tiny devices, including cameras, were installed by MI5 inside several of the suspects' houses, including what officers believe was the bomb factory. Liquid explosives and detonators are said to have been seen at the house.

And yesterday police are believed to have found bombmaking 'components' in woods near one of the addresses raided by anti-terror police last Thursday.

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