Briton Charged With Helping ‘Shoe Bomber’
LONDON (AP) _ A 24-year-old British man was charged Wednesday with conspiring in an explosives plot with Richard Reid, the al-Qaida ``shoe bomber″ who tried to blow up a U.S. airliner.
Sajid Badat, one of more than 20 people arrested since last week in a series of anti-terrorism raids, was charged with two additional explosives offenses, London’s Metropolitan Police said.
London police commissioner Sir John Stevens said Wednesday the force is on a heightened state of terrorist alert.
Details of the accusations against Badat were not released, but explosive material was found at his home in Gloucester, southwestern England, where he was arrested Nov. 27.
Before his name was released, Home Secretary David Blunkett said the security services and police believed the suspect had al-Qaida connections.
``It is the belief of the security and (police) Special Branch services that this man has connections with the network of al-Qaida groups,″ Blunkett told British Broadcasting Corp. radio.
Authorities alleged that between Sept. 1, 2001, and Nov. 28, 2003, Badat ``unlawfully and maliciously conspired with Richard Reid and others unknown″ to cause an explosion ``likely to endanger life or cause serious injury.″
Reid, a British national, was sentenced to life in prison for a Dec. 22, 2001, bombing attempt aboard a Paris-to-Miami flight.
He pleaded guilty and said he was a member of the al-Qaida terrorist network, pledged his support to Osama bin Laden, and declared himself an enemy of the United States. He admitted he tried to ignite plastic explosives hidden in his shoes on American Airlines Flight 63.
Ibrahim Master, chairman of the Lancashire Council of Mosques, said last week that the suspect _ not then identified by name _ had been a student at the College of Islamic Knowledge and Guidance in Blackburn, northern England. Master said religious leaders assisted police in a search of the college and adjoining mosque.
Badat was born in Gloucester into a strict Muslim family who moved to England from Malawi in the 1960s, The Daily Telegraph reported Saturday. The newspaper said he had trained as a Muslim cleric in Pakistan, where members of his family live.
The Guardian newspaper reported Saturday that Badat had gone to Anglican schools as a child, and it quoted friends who expressed surprise at the arrest.
``He is popular and he has never mentioned anything about fundamentalism or terrorism, that is simply not him,″ said Mohammed Yosuf. ``He has traveled to many countries to study Islam, but studying Islam is not the same as studying terrorism.″
Reid, a Muslim convert born in London, had attended Brixton mosque in the capital. Mosque chairman Abdul Haqq Baker has said Reid fell in with a loosely organized groups of the militants and attended extreme scholarship classes.
Police gave no indication of how or where Badat and Reid allegedly had met.
As Badat was charged, police continued to question 14 people arrested Tuesday in a series of dawn raids around the country. Those raids followed anti-terrorist operations last week in which seven people were arrested, including Badat.
One other man arrested in the recent raids, Algerian national Noureddinne Mouleff, was charged earlier Wednesday with terrorism and fraud offenses. Mouleff, 36, who lives in southern England, was charged under the Terrorism Act provision that cites ``possession of items or articles connected to the commission, preparation or instigation of terrorism.″
The police have been on heightened alert since September 2001. They do not reveal details about the degree of threat, but police said Saturday that they had no specific intelligence that warranted specific warnings.
The Sunday Times this week reported that security services feared a Christmas bombing campaign by al-Qaida terrorists _ simultaneous attacks on such soft targets as shopping centers. It said unidentified security sources said suspects under surveillance had carried out possible reconnaissance or ``dummy runs″ for attacks on commercial centers.
The report could not be confirmed, and police repeated their statement that they had no specific intelligence, but advised the public to be alert to any potential threat.
Director-general of the MI5 security service Eliza Manningham-Buller said in October that the threat of attack by Islamic terrorists was at a high level. She described a kind of ``sleeper″ terrorist who might be living in Britain _ networks of individuals sympathetic to the aims of al-Qaida that blend into society. ``Some of these individuals are in the U.K,″ she said.
Terrorist attacks on British targets in Turkey two weeks ago killed at least 27 people and wounded hundreds.
Britain has advised its nationals in Saudi Arabia to maintain a high level of vigilance, particularly in places frequented by foreigners such as hotels, restaurants and shopping malls.
A Nov. 8 suicide bombing at a Riyadh housing compound was preceded by warnings of a pending terrorist attack issued by the Australian, British and U.S. embassies in Riyadh. Seventeen people were killed.