Report: British Police Foil Fatal Gas Plot in London amid Fears of Middle East Terrorist Attack

Published February 18th, 2001 - 02:00 GMT

Following a raid on a house in London, police have exposed a terrorist plot to release the poisonous nerve gas sarin in Britain, reported the Daily Telegraph on Sunday. 

Senior police officers have confirmed to The Telegraph that detailed plans containing instructions on how to manufacture and deploy the poison, which kills in seconds, were discovered by detectives. They believed that a group was plotting to release the gas on the London underground in a copy of an attack in Japan that killed 12 people in 1995. 

The paper linked between the unearthed plot growing tensions in the Middle East following the US and British bombing of military installations in Iraq and the unrest in Israel. It confirms the worst fears of police, who are convinced that London, for so long a hiding place for international terrorists, is now at the top of their list for targets. 

Detectives are linking the plot with a major arms find in Germany in December last year when police in Frankfurt arrested four foreign nationals known to have had links to Saudi terrorist Osama Bin Laden. Weapons including grenades and guns were found in their homes, said the paper. 

A senior police source told the paper that the security authorities “have feared for some time that there would be a major terrorist incident in London. It is amazing it hasn't happened before. It is no secret that people in London have links with terrorists abroad. What is causing concern now is that those people are regarding the capital as a target and not just a hiding place. There was an alert just before Christmas because there was evidence of an attack. Nothing happened but that doesn't mean we are safe.” 

Scientists quoted by the paper last night that the chemical was easy to manufacture and a tiny amount released in an underground station could kill thousands of people. Terrorist groups are increasingly keen to experiment with chemical weapons. Sarin, which is 26 times more deadlier than cyanide, is particularly sought after because being odorless it is almost impossible to detect, said the report. 

The Times newspaper, quoting security sources, said earlier this week that a number of Algerians had been under surveillance for months after intelligence reports that they were involved in planning attacks in Britain and Europe. 

In London also, six Algerian men arrested by anti-terrorist police were remanded in custody when they appeared before a London court on Saturday, according to AFP. 

They were detained following an operation against suspected Islamic militants in which police raided homes in north and west London last Tuesday. 

The six are all charged with possessing computers, electronic equipment, false credit cards, false identity documents and money for terrorist purposes, contrary to Britain's Prevention of Terrorism Act. 

In a related development, British security services ordered an Algerian asylum seeker to carry out burglaries on Muslim places of worship to gather information on alleged Islamic militants, the Observer reported on Sunday, quoted by AFP. 

The paper said Reda Hassaine, a former journalist, infiltrated Britain's community of Islamic militants for MI5, the state security service, and the Special Branch, the police squad which monitors suspected terrorists. 

Hassaine told his handlers of a dirty tricks campaign against Muslim militants in London being run by the French state intelligence service, the Observer said. 

Even though these operations involved burglaries of mosques and premises of Islamic groups, Hassaine was advised by British officers to help the French, according to the newspaper. 

The Algerian told the broadsheet that officers blackmailed him into stealing scores of documents from Muslim preachers by threatening to expel him from the country -- but his asylum application was eventually refused. 

Hassaine said that among his missions was one in 1999 to gather information on Abu Hamza, a hardline preacher at the Finsbury Park mosque in north London, and to steal papers from his offices. 

"If I had been caught by the militants they would have torn me apart ... but I did it again and again for weeks. I stole scores of documents," Hassaine said. 

The papers led to the break-up of what police believed to be cells planning terrorist attacks in Britain, according to the newspaper. 

Scotland Yard declined to comment on the Observer report, said AFP – 




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