(Times Online) London escaped what could have been its worst terrorist attack this morning when a car bomb packed with nails, gas canisters and containers of petrol apparently failed to detonate outside a popular West End nightclub hosting a ‘ladies’ night’. The discovery of the bomb, which was manually defused by officers, left the city on a heightened state of alert. This afternoon an area stretching from Marble Arch to Hyde Park Corner was closed off and nearby buildings including the Dorchester Hotel evacuated while police examined another suspicious car. Police were called to the Tiger Tiger nightclub on Haymarket near Piccadilly Circus shortly before 2am when smoke was seen coming from the inside of a Mercedes parked outside. Unconfirmed reports said that a man had been seen running away from the vehicle. Inside, officers discovered “significant quantities” of petrol, believed to be 60 litres, plus nails and gas cylinders. They used a remote-controlled device to check the vehicle, which was parked in Haymarket, before bomb squad officers made it safe. If the device had exploded, police said that the shrapnel would have killed or injured anyone within a wide area. The bomb could have caused a fireball as big as a house followed by a large shock wave. In a press conference called to discuss the attempted Haymarket attack, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke, head of Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism command, said: “It is obvious that if the device had detonated there could have been significant injury or loss of life.” The incident came on Gordon Brown’s second full day in 10 Downing Street, marking his first real test as Prime Minister. Mr Brown hosted a Cabinet meeting today and said before the session that he would remind his ministers that “vigilance must be maintained”. At his press conference about the attempted attack at Haymarket, Mr Clarke said that police had initially been notified about the car when an ambulance crew called to attend to an unrelated incident in the Tiger Tiger club saw smoke coming from the car. “The police were called and Metropolitan Police explosives officers went to the scene and examined the car,” he told a press conference. “In the car they found significant quantities of petrol together with a number of gas cylinders. “I cannot tell you how much petrol, because we have not had a chance to measure it but I can tell you that it was in several large containers. There were also a large number of nails in the vehicle. “It is appropriate for me to pay tribute to the courage and skill of the explosives officers who manually disabled the device – and in so doing not only did their actions prevent injury and loss of property, but has given us the opportunity to gather forensic evidence.” Today the area directly around the bar was closed off all morning by officers as they checked the vehicle, which was later taken away for further examination. Piccadilly Circus station was also closed, although it was reopened at lunchtime. Whitehall sources said that the police and security services are looking at possible international links to the Haymarket plot, including similarities to car bombs used by insurgents in Iraq. “It is entirely possible. There are various things – it is outside a nightclub, it is a vehicle-borne device, it is close to the anniversary of the July 7 attacks,” one source said. “But we are keeping an open mind.” Terry Neil, managing director of TSS, the firm which provides doormen for Tiger Tiger club, said that his bouncers had also called the police before promptly evacuating the premises. “If it wasn’t for their awareness, it could have been sat there outside a club with 1,000 people in it. It’s a very busy road,” he said. Mr Neil added that the club’s cameras are “absolutely everwhere” around the club. “If you look at where it is, the camera should pick him up getting out of the car. It shouldn’t be long before they start putting out images.” A massive manhunt began for the driver of the Haymarket vehicle, with police trawling through CCTV footage from the club and nearby streets. In addition to their Haymarket investigation today, police were thought to be conducting a huge operation around other London landmarks – including Tower Bridge and the Houses of Parliament – to search for other potential devices. Congestion charge cameras situated throughout central London are also capable of tracking where the car came from, and which routes it took. Terror groups like al-Qaeda are believed to have been planning attacks on nightclubs, which are considered by Islamic fundamentalists to be symbols of Western decadence. Earlier this year, a number of Islamist extremist terrorists were imprisoned for planning several major terror attacks, including a bomb attack on London’s Ministry of Sound nightclub. Islamist extremists have in the past talked about particularly targeting women, whose attendance at nightclubs they say they particularly loathe. In that regard, the fact that Tiger Tiger was holding a ‘ladies’ night,’ complete with female DJ, would have meant a particularly large number of women were inside the club. Tiger Tiger is a combined bar, restaurant and nightclub, part of a wider national chain, that opens from midday until the early hours of the morning. It has several floors, and is believed to have a capacity of over 1,000 – although staff said that only around 650 were in the club at the time of the incident. Today’s Cabinet meeting was briefed by Jacqui Smith, the new Home Secretary, who first chaired a session of Cobra, the Government’s emergency civil contingencies committee. This morning, before the Cabinet meeting, Mr Brown said: “The first duty of the Government is the security of the people and as the police and security services have said on so many occasions we face a serious and continuous threat to our country. “We should allow the police to investigate this incident and then report to us. But this incident does recall the need for us to be vigilant at all times and the public to be alert at any potential incidents. “I will stress to the Cabinet that the vigilance must be maintained over the next few days”. Leaving Downing Street a few hours later, Ms Smith added: “We are currently facing the most serious and sustained threat to our security from international terrorism. This latest incident reinforces the need for the public to remain vigilant and alert to the threat that we face at all times.” The attempted attack comes as the current terror threat against the UK is assessed as “severe,” the second highest level, meaning that intelligence analysts consider an attack highly likely. The highest level, “critical”, means that an attack is expected imminently. Earlier this month security spot checks were introduced on petrol and chemical tankers, cement mixers – and other vehicles that could be used by suicide bombers – on key routes into London. That reflects increasing concern in the security services that UK terrorists might copy tactics used to deadly effect by insurgents in Iraq. Bombers in Baghdad have blown themselves up in hijacked petrol tankers and, in at least three attacks this year, have used chlorine gas canisters in lorry bombs. The checks follow a warning this year by Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, that “vehicle-borne weaponry is the greatest danger that we can face”. But Scotland Yard said on June 6 that it had no specific intelligence to suggest that a lorry-bomb attack was imminent. The Metropolitan Police’s Counter-Terrorism Command set up the checks as a precautionary measure but they were then incorporated into Operation Mermaid, a long-running operation aimed at ensuring vehicle safety. An al-Qaeda terrorist convicted last year had been planning vehicle-borne bomb attacks in London when he was arrested. Dhiren Barot pleaded guilty to plotting a series of attacks, including detailed plans to pack stretch limousines with gas cylinders and explosives and detonate them in car parks beneath hotels or office blocks.
(NewsDay) NEW YORK — The city is strengthening its already-tight security as a precaution after a bomb was discovered in a busy area of London, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Friday.
“We’re going to ramp up a little bit, but nothing dramatic,” Bloomberg said on his weekly radio show. “We’ll take a little bit of extra precaution. Some of you will notice, some of you won’t _ but we have to be cognizant.”
The U.S. government urged Americans to be vigilant about suspicious activity after British police defused the bomb in central London, but officials said they saw no potential terrorist threat in the United States ahead of next week’s Fourth of July holiday.
In New York, police were placing more patrols in Times Square and the mass transit system, according to department spokesman Paul Browne. Officers were working beyond the end of their shifts to provide extra coverage during the evening rush hour.
Bloomberg noted that the New York Police Department has an officer assigned full time in London. “He is there and he’ll keep us posted,” the mayor said. “We will have our police officer give us a full report, because you want to know what happened.”
A British security official told The Associated Press that Britain’s domestic spy agency MI5 is examining whether there is any connection between the bomb attempt and at least two similar foiled plots _ including a planned attack on a West End nightclub in 2004 and a thwarted attempt to use limousines packed with gas canisters to attack targets in London and New York.
Earlier this month in London, seven men convicted of joining in a terrorist plot to bomb U.S. financial landmarks and London targets were handed prison sentences ranging up to 26 years.
All were convicted of assisting in a plot led by Dhiren Barot, who was sentenced to life in prison last year.
Barot, 35, a British convert to Islam, was convicted of planning to use vehicles packed with explosives to attack such targets as the International Monetary Fund in Washington and the New York Stock Exchange and Citigroup headquarters in New York as well as London hotels and train stations.
(Guardian Unlimited) President Hugo Chávez yesterday hinted that Venezuela could try to become a nuclear power, during a visit to Russia apparently timed to antagonise the White House. Mr Chávez defended Iran’s right to pursue a nuclear programme and said it might be a good idea if Venezuela eventually did the same thing. Speaking before an audience of communists and other elements hostile to America, Mr Chávez said: “Iran has a right to have a peaceful atomic energy industry, as it is a sovereign country. “The Brazilian president has declared his atomic energy initiatives, and Brazil has a right to do that as well. Who knows, maybe Venezuela will ultimately follow suit.” Mr Chávez said he wanted a “multi-polar world in which “real freedom” was possible as opposed to “American freedom”, which he characterised as the right to “threaten other nations and destroy cities”. The Venezuelan leader is on a trip that also includes two other US antagonists, Belarus and Iran. His visit to Moscow comes hours before a meeting in the US between Vladimir Putin and George Bush. The two are holding informal talks on Sunday and Monday at the Bush family estate in Kennebunkport, Maine, with deep divisions over the US’s proposed missile shield in central Europe, the future of Kosovo and US concerns over Russia’s resurgent authoritarianism under Mr Putin. Kremlin officials yesterday said it was a coincidence that Mr Putin was holding talks with Mr Chávez tomorrow and Mr Bush on Sunday. But the newspaper Vedomosti suggested the visits were designed to demonstrate Russia’s independence. Others suggested it was Mr Chávez who was making the running. “The timing wasn’t initiated by Russia,” said Viktor Semyonov, an economist at Moscow’s Institute of Latin American Studies. “It all comes from Chávez. “It’s more about money than politics; Chávez is supporting Russia’s rapidly increasing economic presence in Venezuela.” During his three-day visit to Russia, Mr Chávez is expected to buy more military hardware, including as many as five submarines. He will also tour a helicopter factory and hold talks with Mr Putin tomorrow in Rostov-on-Don. Last year Mr Chávez spent $3bn (£1.5bn) on Russian arms. But yesterday he said: “We don’t want war. We want peace. There were rumours we came here to buy weapons. This is not the priority of my visit … The priority is cultural interaction and the exchange of ideas.” But he also boasted of Venezuela’s Russian Sukhoi jets: “When they appeared in the sky over Caracas during a parade on independence day two years ago, then we broke the fetters of dependence on the US.” In Belarus, Mr Chávez may also discuss a new air defence system, after saying this week that Venezuela’s current system was insufficient. He will then go to Tehran for talks aimed at further deepening ties with Iran.
MOSCOW (AP) — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called on Russian business leaders Friday to boost their investment in his country, criticizing U.S. companies as “vampires” and inviting Russians to help develop a massive oil deposit. As Chavez kept up his verbal attacks on the United States during a visit to Russia, a Russian arms trade official said he hopes Venezuela will buy five Russian submarines — a purchase that would likely anger Washington. Chavez said he expects development of a “road map” that will boost and diversify Russian-Venezuelan business ties — especially in the energy sector, including construction of a natural gas pipeline and oil refineries. “We are very satisfied with the presence of Russian companies in our oil industry, and will do our best to develop this cooperation further,” he said in an address to Russia’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He said that at dinner Thursday night with President Vladimir Putin, they agreed to create a fund to support joint projects. With Russia’s help, Venezuela is ready to build four oil refineries and plans another 13, he said. He also invited Russian oil companies to help develop the Orinoco River basin, recognized as the world’s single largest known oil deposit, potentially holding 1.2 trillion barrels of extra-heavy crude. Earlier this week, U.S. energy Exxon Mobil Corp. and ConocoPhillips refused to sign deals to keep pumping heavy oil in the basin while giving the government control of their operations there. Other major oil companies Chevron Corp., Britain’s BP PLC, France’s Total SA and Norway’s Statoil ASA accepted the terms, accepting minority stakes. On Friday, Chavez lambasted the U.S. and its “imperialist” policies. “U.S. companies act like Count Dracula, like vampires bleeding our country dry,” he said. Chavez urged Russian companies to invest in construction of a 5,000-mile natural gas pipeline to Argentina, retrofitting Venezuela’s dilapidated sea ports, and developing its gold mining and chemical and industries. “For the Americas, Venezuela is like Russia for Europe and Asia — a source of oil and natural gas,” he said. Both Venezuela and Russia have revisited contracts signed in the 1990s with major oil companies, and slapped back-tax claims on private companies. Chavez arrived Wednesday amid widespread speculation that he wanted to sign a major arms deal, and Putin said the weapons trade was among the topics of talks late Thursday. On Friday, the RIA-Novosti news agency quoted an official with the Russian arms sales monopoly as saying the sides were in talks on the possible purchase by Venezuela of five Project 636 Kilo-class diesel submarines. “We are conducting these talks, and I hope that this agreement is possible,” RIA-Novosti quoted Innokenty Naletov, an aide to the director of Rosoboronexport, as saying. He said there were also talks on supplies of military equipment for ground and air forces. Caracas already has purchased some $3 billion worth of arms from Russia, including 53 military helicopters, 100,000 Kalashnikov rifles, 24 SU-30 Sukhoi fighter jets and other weapons. The United States has voiced concern about Venezuela’s military spending.
(AP) Radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called off his followers’ march toward a bombed Shiite shrine north of Baghdad, two of his aides said Friday. Al-Sadr had called for his followers to march to the Askariya shrine in Samarra known for its shimmering golden dome destroyed by suspected al-Qaida bombers in February 2006. After a second attack toppled the mosque complex’s minarets earlier this month, the cleric called for Shiites to march to the shrine on July 5. “Muqtada al-Sadr has decided to postpone the march to Samarra for several reasons, including the government’s inability to secure the route and many officials’ appeals for a postponement,” said Sheik Asad Al-Nassiri, an aide to the cleric. He made the announcement during a Friday sermon in nearby Kufa. Later, al- Sadr’s spokesman, Sheik Salah al-Obeidi, said the march had been “canceled” because “the government has abandoned protecting pilgrims to Samarra and because of the many appeals.” Earlier Friday, the largest Sunni bloc in Iraq’s parliament called on al-Sadr to cancel the march, saying it was too dangerous. The statement by the Iraqi Accordance Front, which holds 44 seats in the 275-member legislature, came a day after Prime Minster Nouri al-Maliki’s Cabinet and the Defense Ministry both made similar pleas, saying the road to the mosque was not yet secure. “We call on our Shiite brothers and those in the al-Sadr movement to postpone their planned visit in July to the Askariya shrine, which was the target of two terrorist criminal attacks that aimed to divide Iraqis,” the statement said. Samarra is a mostly Sunni city about 95 kilometers (60 miles) north of Baghdad.
(AP) President Gen. Pervez Musharraf said Friday that suicide bombers were holed up in a mosque in the capital and said extremists pose the “gravest threat” to Pakistan. The warning about extremist threats to Pakistan comes amid a gathering campaign for Musharraf, a close U.S. ally against terrorism, to step down and put an end to eight years of military rule. In Islamabad, authorities are locked in a five-month standoff with a downtown mosque where radicals have repeatedly kidnapped alleged prostitutes and police officers in a drive to impose a harsh version of Islamic law. Speaking to reporters Friday, Musharraf said security forces were ready to raid the Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque to end its vigilante campaign. But he said female students from an adjoining seminary were ready to carry out suicide attacks to defend the complex. He said members of Jaish-e-Moahmmed, a banned militant group with links to al-Qaida, were also in the mosque. “They are suicide bombers. They have explosives,” Musharraf said at a journalism seminar. “I am not a coward, but there is a problem. There is a very serious problem that there are committed people” in the mosque, Musharraf said. Observers cite the Red Mosque’s continued defiance as a further example of how extremists are extending their influence across Pakistan. Pro-Taliban militants hold sway in the tribal zone bordering Afghanistan and hardline clerics and their followers are flexing their muscles across much of the northwest. Critics accuse Musharraf of manipulating militant groups via Pakistan’s powerful intelligence agencies. However, his failure to prevent their rise has also exposed him to considerable domestic and international criticism. On Friday, Musharraf said extremism was the “gravest threat” to Pakistan and that would address the nation next week on measures to combat it. He didn’t mention al-Qaida, whose leaders are suspected of hiding along the rugged frontier with Afghanistan. But he said foreign militants were planning attacks abroad from Pakistani soil. “We know that there are foreigners in the mountains” near the border, Musharraf said. “We have evidence that the foreigners are there and they are also planning attacks outside. “If it happens, let me tell you there will be incalculable consequences for Pakistan. We have to stop it,” Musharraf said.
(NTARC) The FBI is asking the nation’s scuba instructors to watch for potential terrorist threats. The agency’s Joint Terrorism Task Force recently alerted dive shops around the country to look out for divers seeking advanced training, including diving in murky water and in sewer pipes. FBI spokesman Richard Kolko described the advisory as routine and said it was not prompted by any threat.The advisory asked instructors to be aware of “odd inquiries that are inconsistent with recreational diving.” That includes advanced navigation techniques, deep diving and the use of underwater vehicles. “It would definitely stand out,” said Ken Loyst, who sits on the board of the National Association of Underwater Instructors. “Most instructors would take it upon themselves to call somebody and say, ‘There’s a weird guy in my class.’” The advisory also referred to requests for diver training “by applicants from countries where diving is not a common recreational activity” and training sponsored by religious organizations, cults, charities and other groups not usually associated with diving. Loyst, who is also a pilot, compared the FBI advisory to those distributed to aviation instructors. “I think the FBI is just kind of giving everyone a heads up,” he said. Loyst estimated there are about 1,800 dive shops around the country.
(AFP) Al-Qaeda extremists in Iraq have “wide-ranging and dangerous plans” to destabilise neighbouring countries, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki warned Thursday. The remarks came during a visit to Iraq’s counter-terrorism directorate where Maliki praised his security forces for combatting the Sunni extremists but warned that the fight could spread throughout the region. He “warned of wide-ranging and dangerous plans on the part of Al-Qaeda to target a number of countries that suffer from religious and sectarian conflicts,” according to a statement from his office. “Al-Qaeda is surrounded and is suffering heavy blows in Iraq, and so elements from it are fleeing to other countries where it is easier to infiltrate and opening new battles to conceal its losses.” The remarks came as insurgents detonated two car bombs in eastern Baghdad, killing at least 25 people, and as Lebanese forces battles Al-Qaeda-inspired fanatics at a refugee camp near Tripoli. Maliki’s fragile governing coalition, which includes several armed factions, has come under increasing pressure in recent months to meet benchmarks set by Washington to resolve the country’s simmering conflicts. Although Maliki’s security forces are widely believed to be infiltrated by rival Shiite militias, he inisisted that the counter-terrorism division was “for all Iraqis and not for any specific ethnic or sectarian group”.
(AP) The threat of terrorism in Europe remains very high due to anger over the Iraqi war and the growing influence of North African groups linked to al-Qaida, a leading anti-terrorism judge warned Thursday. “The actual threat for Europe is high, very high indeed,” Jean-Louis Bruguiere, a top investigator of Islamic terrorism in France, told a press conference in Madrid. “The Iraqi conflict has nurtured the Islamic groups living in Europe,” he said, adding that Iraq also remains a magnet for the recruitment of Islamic extremists. Bruguiere said militants heading to Iraq are increasingly going with the goal to train, and then return to their home countries in Europe to plot attacks. He said that among the leading threats to Europe is an apparent effort by al-Qaida to unite terror trainees in Iraq with the militants in North Africa, especially Algeria’s Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, better known by its French initials GSPC. “It’s a new generation and a new strategy” he said. “They have been in Iraq, they have received training and they can come back to Europe to commit attacks.” He specifically mentioned France as a target for the GSPC mostly because of France’s historical connection with North Africa followed by Spain and Italy. He warned about the alliance late last year between the GSPC and Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network which is known as Al-Qaida in the Islamic North Africa. “It is a new organization and the first regional base of al-Qaida. Therefore, it poses a double threat, for the (North African) region and violence that could further break out in Europe,” he said. Bruguiere is a top investigative magistrate in France, a country that greatly strengthened its anti-terrorism laws after attacks by North African groups in France in the 1980s and mid-1990s. Bruguiere was in Spain to receive an award from a private Spanish-French friendship group for his efforts in the fight against terrorism.
(BBC) Text of report by Madjid T. headlined “Following the elimination of a group from the Salafi Group for Call and Combat at the gates of Algiers: Search in Beni Amrane”, published by Algerian newspaper Liberte website on 28 June No fewer than 20 terrorists led by Djamel Niche, called Abou Smah Elyes, are holed up in the Boudoukhane and Bouzegza terrorist strongholds. The group from the ex-Salafi Group for Call and Combat [GSPC; the group now known as Al-Qa’idah in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb, or AQLIM] that used to threaten the capital has been 90 per cent annihilated since a total of 12 terrorists who were part of the Abou Bekr Essedik katibat [battalion] have been eliminated since last Friday [22 June], the kick-off date for this large-scale search operation that targeted the Khemis El-Khechna and Mefta regions. This operation is still ongoing, our sources reported, which indicated yesterday that two other terrorists who were part of that katibat which reigns supreme in the Meftah region were still, as of yesterday morning, still surrounded by the People’s National Army [ANP] in the spot known as Harour located midway between Khemis El-Khechna and Meftah. A terrorist who was seriously wounded following a skirmish with a patrol from the ANP was captured the day before yesterday as he was trying to flee towards Khemis El-Khechna, whereas the fate of “amir” Moussa K., called Abou Hanifa, a native of the municipality of Larbatache, is unknown. Certain sources presume him dead, adding that his body is at the Blida hospital for identification just as are the corpses of four other terrorists, among them that of Lounes F., called Shaykh Ahmed, the “amir” from the Errahd seriat [brigade]. But the identification of the bodies is going to last several more days, our sources told us yesterday, which added that about 10 weapons of various makes, cell phones, munitions, and clothing had been recovered since the start of the operation. Two blockhouses and one small house that had served as a hideout for the group were also destroyed between Saturday and Sunday, the same sources added. Moreover, as of yesterday, the ANP’s forces continued to bomb the communities of Djebabra overlooking Meftah, where three elements of the group were eliminated starting the first day of the operation. For a second time the community of El-Djemaia, located south of Meftah, was gone over with a fine-toothed comb by the ANP’s troops, supported by the Patriots [militia group members] and municipal guards from the region, as was the Ziane farm, of which Abdelmalek Droukdel, alias Abou Moussaab Abdelouadoud, is a native. So the ANP has just carried off a major coup by rendering the Abou Bekr Essedik incapable of doing harm, a group which was established by the ex-GSPC for the purpose of being used as a bridge that would serve the terrorist groups, particularly the El-Feth katibat, led by Bentitraoui, alias Yahia, and the El-Arkam katibat, which Abdelfettah leads, to reanimate Algiers’s sleeper cells. Moreover, those two katibats which are part of the ex-GSPC’s Zone 2 took an active part in the organization of the attacks that were committed in Reghaia and Derghana as well as the 11 April attacks. Certain terrorists who planned those attacks were arrested by the security forces, such as Nacer Djebbal, one of the GSPC’s main explosives experts, who was neutralized at the start of the month of June in Bouchakour near Naciria. At the end of that operation, which took place in the Djouaouna forest, to be more precise, elements from Boumerdes’s Judicial Police Mobile Brigade [BMPJ] recovered electronic materiel as well as explosives. Several days earlier, the security forces arrested about 12 people who were part of a support network for one of the terrorist groups that took part in the 11 April attacks. The investigation conducted by the security forces revealed that those troops were working under the control of Harek Zoheir, called Sofiane El-Fassila, the “amir” from the ex-GSPC’s zone 2, considered to be the main instigator of the 11 April attacks. Moreover, it has been learned that during these past two days, another large-scale search targeted the terrorist strongholds of Boudoukhane, Bouzegza, Keddara, and the heights of Beni Amrane, where 20 or so terrorists are holed up, led by Djamel Niche, called Abou Smah Elyes. But as of yesterday evening, no final toll had been released.
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