Times : Terror arrests: police granted more time for ‘al-Qaeda plot’ interviews

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Terror arrests: police granted more time for ‘al-Qaeda plot’ interviews

by Russell Jenkins and Andrew Norfolk | April 15, 2009

Detectives are still questioning 11 suspects in connection with an alleged al-Qaeda terror plot a week after they were arrested in a series of armed raids in the North West.

Forensic science officers are carrying out detailed searches of nine addresses in Manchester and Liverpool but have now completed their work at the Cyber Net Cafe in Cheetham Hill Road, Greater Manchester.

Investigators are sifting through evidence teased from computer software seized at the properties.

The hunt for an alleged bomb factory took a dramatic turn on Monday when army bomb disposal experts were called in by searchers to a student flat in Highgate Street in Liverpool, but they completed their work apparently without finding anything.

Officers concede that there is still a long way to go in the investigation. So far no charges have been brought against the men. The youngest man arrested last Wednesday, an 18-year-old, has been released into the custody of the UK Borders Agency.

Police have been granted a further week to detain the men, aged from 22 to 41, who are being held at undisclosed locations around the country.

The father of one man arrested at a house on Galsworthy Avenue, a red-brick terrace in Cheetham Hill, North Manchester, has insisted that his son was not involved in any kind of terror plot. He suggested that Abid Naseer, 22, has been mistaken for a terrorist because of his appearance.

Nasrullah Jan Khattak, his father, spoke from the family home in Peshawar, Pakistan, to describe how his son travelled to Britain on a student visa about 2½ years ago to study for a masters degree in information technology.

He and his flatmates had impressed neighbours in the largely Punjabi community around Cheetham for their religious devotion. They were said to attend the al-Falah mosque five times a day.

He said: “This is all his prayers and his beard. I am his father and I know him. He is not involved in any mysterious plot. We have done nothing wrong and we have nothing to hide.”

Mr Naseer’s family joined relatives of Abdul Wahab Khan and Muhammad Ramzan who suggested that they too were among the suspects still being held.

The families, who live in the town of Dera Ismail Khan in northwest Pakistan, said the two lived together and studied at John Moores University.

The relatives said they had been unable to reach the pair since the raids began, and claimed they had learnt of the young men’s arrests through their friends.

All three families said no government officials from either country had contacted them.

A spokesman for Greater Manchester Police, who have worked alongside the North West Counter Terrorism Unit, said: “Officers continue to thank the local authorities affected by this operation for their co-operation and support.”