Airports still enforce restrictions which were put in place in August 2006, after twenty-five people were arrested in Britain, supposedly because they had been plotting to create explosives from hydrogen peroxide and other common household liquids while aboard transatlantic flights, destroying multiple airliners more or less simultaneously in a spectacular attack which would rival or exceed 9/11.
Depending on what report you were reading at the moment, Rashid Rauf was described as the messenger or the mastermind, or the bomb-making expert, or perhaps only the messenger's friend: in any event it was clear that Rashid Rauf was the al Qaeda connection in the Liquid Bomb plot, so-called.
Rauf's arrest in Pakistan had precipitated all the police action in the UK, we were told, although the date and place and means of that arrest were all sketchy, and reports on all of the above tended to differ. Somehow -- the mechanism was never clear -- Rashid Rauf had managed to send a message to his alleged co-conspirators in Britain, telling them to go ahead with their plot immediately, or so we were told.
The police in the UK had intercepted the message and tracked down the would-be recipients, according to the tale. How Rauf had sent a message like that from captivity remained a mystery to some.
Others wondered how the alleged plotters could possibly go ahead with their plan, considering that they had not yet made any bombs or bought any tickets, and that most of them hadn't even applied for passports yet. Surely, if he were the mastermind, Rashid Rauf would have known all this. Wouldn't he?
And then the details of the alleged plot were leaked to the British newspapers, and they didn't make any sense. The process the alleged plotters were supposedly going to use to create their so-called bomb would have taken far longer than the flight would be in the air, and would have required far more space and equipment than they possibly could have had.
So a second round of conflicting details was leaked, to the New York Times this time, and the NYT published an article that was so hot that the NYT itself refused to distribute it in Britain. British readers were also barred from reading the piece online, unless they knew where else they could find such a thing. The technical details of the alleged plot were different than they had originally been reported. And once again, the plot as described was impossible.
Of the twenty-five British suspects originally arrested, one was released immediately, and twelve more were released without any charges having been laid. Eight of the others were charged with conspiracy to commit murder by detonating explosives on aircraft. After a very lengthy trial, in which yet another impossible plot was described as evidence, a British jury refused to convict any of them of that charge. Even though the judge told the jury he would accept a 10-2 or 11-1 decision, the jury could not reach a verdict on seven of the defendants -- but they did aquit the other one.
Meanwhile, in Pakistan, Rashid Rauf was charged with terrorism and brought to court but the police hadn't prepared a case against him, so his case was delayed -- several times. Finally they got to court and it turned out that Rashid Rauf had been charged with possession of hydrogen peroxide for the purposes of terrorism. Apparently the peroxide in Rashid Rauf's possession was allegedly intended to be used in the creation of the liquid bombs that were supposedly going to knock down all those airplanes. But once again the story didn't make any sense. How could hydrogen peroxide in Pakistan blow up planes headed from Heathrow to the USA? And why wouldn't British terrorists in Britian buy their bomb-making ingredients from British sources? Would they really need to obtain hydrogen peroxide from an al Qaeda mastermind? The Pakistani judge dismissed the charges.
The government moved quietly and the charges were reinstated. And another round of delays began. Finally -- after nearly another year -- the charges were dropped again. But Rashid Rauf remained in prison, pending resolution of an extradition request from the British.
Officially, Pakistan and the UK do not have an extradition treaty. But exceptions can always be made, especially if a quid pro quo is available. Officially, the British never requested Rashid Rauf's extradition on the Liquid Bomb case; they wanted him in connection with the stabbing murder of Rauf's uncle in Birmingham. Immediately after his uncle was killed, Rashid Rauf fled to Pakistan, so the story goes; and never since then has he been seen in Britain.
The British arrested a pair of human rights activists from Balochistan, where Pakistan is currently waging an unpublicized war of aggression. The Pakistani government would love to keep this story quiet; they wanted the two activists in exchange for Rashid Rauf. And the British allegedly wanted Rauf for questioning in connection with the plot he supposedly masterminded. So the deal was set ... but it didn't happen.
Not that it matters much, but I never thought it would. The British had been very lukewarm in their extradition requests, and rightly so, in my opinion. The so-called plot, including the purported al Qaeda connection, smelled bad even before the first arrests were announced, with politicians on both sides of the Atlantic delivering unprecedented loads of manure in the hours immediately before the story broke.
Rashid Rauf, it seemed to me, might be an agent provocateur, and I thought he would be a very dangerous witness to question in a court of law. So I thought it was easy to understand the reluctance of the British authorities to press too hard for his extradition.
And then he escaped from -- or was deliberately released by -- the policemen who were detailed to escort him to and from a court date, and who were utterly negligent about trying to recapture their man. Or else, depending on your sources, he may have been captured by Pakistani intelligence to keep him out of the normal justice system. The original reports indicated that Rashid Rauf had overpowered his guards; later it was reported that he had been allowed to go into a mosque to pray -- without supervision. The policemen who sat waiting for him to reappear didn't notify headquarters that they'd lost their man until six hours later. Five Pakistani policemen were arrested, and nine were sacked; but where was Rashid Rauf?
All the uncertainty, and all the obvious lying, came to a head on the weekend, when an unmanned US spy plane dropped a bomb on a mud house in North Waziristan, killing Rashid Rauf and four others, and injuring six more, according to reports in all the big media. But according to Rashid Rauf's family, the big media have it wrong again.
Rashid Rauf's wife, Umat-ul-Warood, has appealed to the Pakistani government for the return of her dead husband's body, in accordance with the Muslim tradition of burying the dead immediately. But the government says it doesn't know anything about it, as Pakistan's Online News reported:
Rashid Rauf's wife Umat-ul-Warood has urged Government to hand over dead body of her husband for burial, who died during a American drone attack on Saturday.Now, according to the Guardian,
Sources informed here on Sunday, that the kin of Rashid Rauf (a Proclaimed Offender of London plane conspiracy case) arrived in Peshawar from Bahawalpur to receive the dead body.
On the other hand, Government sources has expressed their ignorance relating to the arrival of Rashid Rauf's relative to collect his dead body.
The family of Rashid Rauf, the British terror suspect who reportedly died last week in a US missile strike in Pakistan, have claimed he was not killed in the attack.The family says that prior to hearing that he was killed in a missile strike, they hadn't heard anything from Rashid since he "escaped from prison". And now, with the government refusing to hand over the body, they suspect that there is no body. The Guardian continues:
Speaking through Rauf's lawyer, Hashmat Malik, the family of Rauf's wife in Pakistan said that the body had not been handed over to them and the authorities were not responding to their questions.
Rauf's death had been revealed by unnamed Pakistani intelligence agents, the usual source of information on the casualties of American strikes in the country's wild tribal area.
"It's all a concocted story," said Malik. "We're sure that it is not Rashid Rauf."
"There was no reason for him to be in North Waziristan, he has no link with al-Qaida or the Taliban," said Malik. "The entire family is hopeful that he is still alive. He might have met his death, but not through this strike."But according to an AFP report, Rauf's lawyer doesn't believe Rashid Rauf is dead.
The lawyer said that the family believed that if Rauf is dead, the Pakistani security agencies had killed him after his "escape".
"We don't believe that this story is true... It is a fake story," lawyer Hashmat Ali Habib told BBC radio, adding: "We still believe that my client, Rashid, is alive."Hashmat Ali Habib is saying the government can remove the trail of the people it disappears by claiming they were killed by an American missile strike in the mountainous wild-lands. The Americans routinely refuse to confirm or deny reports that they are attacking inside Pakistan. So who's to know?
He noted that requests for Rauf's body to be returned to his family had not been answered. "This is a new technique of the government to dispose of the cases like Rashid or other missing people," he said.
As the Guardian noted,
Rauf's death had been revealed by unnamed Pakistani intelligence agents, the usual source of information ...Unnamed Pakistani intelligence agents are the usual source of information? Yes, indeed. How fortunate we are to have such a responsible and independent press!
For an overview of what I think is going on in this case, please see my piece from January, 2008: "Inadequate Deception: The Impossible Plots Of The Terror War".
thirty-eighth in a series
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