Arrests in Canada, Saudi Arabia tied to London probe

British police detaining 8 Muslims, 1 other man in possible terror plot

April 02, 2004|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

LONDON -British police said yesterday that they had extended until tomorrow the detention of eight Muslims arrested this week in connection with the seizure of 1,000 pounds of a bomb-making compound near central London.

At the same time, a spokesman for the police antiterrorism branch said the recent arrests in Canada and Saudi Arabia of two men of Pakistani origin - a father and son - are connected to the investigation into the possible bomb-making activities in London.

The police fear that those activities might have been in support of plans to strike a prominent target in London, but a spokesman said that no direct physical evidence of bomb-making, such as detonators, timing devices or other bomb paraphernalia, was discovered in the raids.

Scotland Yard announced late yesterday that it had arrested a ninth man, age 27, but otherwise unidentified, as part of the investigation.

British police said in a statement that he was being held "on suspicion of being concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism."

Police in Ottawa and London would not describe the nature of any connection between the arrests of the ethnic Pakistanis, but the confiscation of a number of computers from an Internet cafe near the home of some of the young Muslim men arrested south of London suggests that the police were seeking to understand their Internet communications.

"We are aware of the developments in Canada and are liaising with the Canadian authorities," a police spokesman here said.

On Monday, the day before 700 British police and intelligence officers fanned out in London and surrounding counties to make the arrests, Canadian police arrested Mohammed Momin Khawaja, 29, a computer programmer working under contract in Canada's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

He was charged under Canada's antiterrorism law, according to a Royal Canadian Mounted Police statement, with "knowingly facilitating a terrorist activity" in Ottawa and "at or near the city of London, England."

Khawaja's brother, Qasim, told Canada AM radio yesterday that his father, Mahboob Khawaja, 62, was an academic. The father, who was born in the disputed Kashmir region, is said to hold a doctorate in social science from Syracuse University. He was working in Yanbu, Saudi Arabia, north of Jidda, as the administrator of a polytechnic school when he was detained.

The younger Khawaja, who was arrested in Ottawa, traveled to London and Pakistan in November and December, his brother told Canadian news media.

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