From Our Special Correspondent

LONDON, Sept 9: Law-enforcing agencies in Britain are blaming the US and Pakistan for their failure to help British prosecutors prove beyond doubt that the so-called liquid bombers were actually guilty of planning to blow up seven airliners on their way to various American airports from London’s Heathrow.

Of the eight men arrested by the British police, accusing them of plotting to blow up transatlantic airliners, seven men admitted plotting to cause a public nuisance. The eighth man was cleared at Woolwich Crown Court.

But after more than 50 hours of deliberations, the jury did not find any of the defendants guilty of conspiring to target aircraft.

The Guardian on Tuesday said it was not clear whether the Crown Prosecution Service would go ahead with a retrial but “what is clear, however, is that more evidence might have been gathered had Rashid Rauf, a man believed to have been a key figure in the alleged plot, not been arrested in Pakistan”.

The newspaper further said that Rauf’s arrest in Pakistan, on August 9, 2006, came as a surprise to the British police and intelligence officers involved in the surveillance of the alleged plotters in the UK. “It is understood that Rauf was arrested at the request of US authorities, who wanted to strike as soon as they heard about the alleged plot.”

“Rauf’s arrest was unwelcome in London. The US action triggered arrests in Britain which were forced on the security and intelligence agencies sooner than they expected, or wanted,” the Guardian said.

Rauf, a Briton and wanted here for murder, later escaped from police custody in Rawalpindi in broad daylight just two weeks before the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in the same city.

His escape also aborted an alleged plan said to be mutually agreed between Islamabad and London to exchange Rauf for two high-profile Baloch leaders wanted for allegedly waging war against Pakistan army.

The Baloch leaders seeking sanctuary in the UK were arrested for the exchange purpose but after Rauf’s escape the court released them ostensibly for want of evidence.

Ron Suskind in his book ‘The Way of World’ reveals many details about the August 2006 liquid bomber episode while strongly hinting that President Bush whose political fortunes had dipped dangerously in early 2006 had made Islamabad arrest Rauf against specific advice from the then British prime minister Tony Blair hoping to make some dubious political gains in the glare of the publicity which followed the disclosure of the plot.

Suskind says Bush ignoring Blair’s advice against shutting the trap on the plotters before a lead is found to the brains behind the plot sent Jose Rodriquez, CIA’s director operation, to Pakistan in early August to secretly pass the information to ISI and get them to arrest Rashid Rauf which, the author says, alerted Rauf’s associates in Pakistan who in turn alerted their contacts in the UK.

Their conversation was picked up by the British intelligence and they moved quickly to arrest the suspects.



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