Times : Terror suspects used wedding e-mails as 'bomb plot code’ MI5 claims

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Terror suspects used wedding e-mails as 'bomb plot code’ MI5 claims

David Brown | August 15, 2009

A group of terror suspects were arrested after MI5 intercepted e-mails about a wedding that officers believe contained codewords for an al-Qaeda bomb plot, a judge revealed yesterday.

One e-mail referred to a girl called Nadia who would be involved in a nikha, or wedding, between April 15 and 20 this year. MI5, which had been monitoring the men, decided that the girls’ names were code for explosive ingredients and the wedding was the date of a planned attack.

Details of the claims were revealed as part of a hearing last month of five Pakistani men seeking bail from the Special Immigration Appeals Commission.

None of the men, among 12 seized by police in raids across the North West of England in April, has been charged with any criminal offences. They are challenging government attempts to deport them on the ground that they threaten national security.

Giving the reasons for the decision to refuse bail for the first time yesterday, Mr Justice Mitting said a series of e-mails exchanged between an address attributed to one of the men and another attributed to an al-Qaeda associate were “central to the open case against the appellants”.

The e-mails from the man, identified only as XC, were written to “Sohaib”.

In a written statement, Mr Justice Mitting said: “The assessment of the security service is that references to named girls could be to ingredients from which an explosive device could be made and that the reference to the nikah is ‘most likely’ reference to an intended attack.”

Richard Hermer QC, for XC, told last month’s hearing that the security service’s account of the e-mails was far-fetched and they were no more than innocent social discussions.

Mr Justice Mitting said the final interpretation of the e-mails would have to wait until a full hearing takes place next year.

He said that the “undisputed fact” that no explosive materials have been recovered was “at least a significant gap” in the Government’s case against the men.

Lawyers for the men have sought assurances that they will not be arrested and detained indefinitely if they are forced to go back to Pakistan.

Of the five men, students Abdul Khan, 26, and Shoaib Khan, 27, from Liverpool, have waived their right to anonymity.