Terror plot: Perfunctory, late Friday afternoon round-up (Update: Mastermind in custody?)

They’re rounding them up in the Middle East and Europe and letting them go in the UK: the number arrested in Pakistan has risen to 17, among them two British nationals, and 40 more were pinched earlier today in Italy. Meanwhile, Scotland Yard has already released one of the 19 suspects named last night by the Bank of England. How could the biggest surveillance operation in the country’s history already have produced one wrong arrest?

Some of the suspects made phone calls to the U.S., but no arrests have been made here despite an intensive FBI search.

The Daily Mail quotes U.S. intelligence officials as naming Matiur Rehman the mastermind of the plot. That’s a coup for the Blotter, which reported on Rehman two days ago — before the plot was announced. Rehman is an Al Qaeda capo; his link to the suspects was the alleged ringleader, Rashid Rauf, who also happens to be one of the two British nationals they arrested. Pakistan claims that Rehman is operating in Afghanistan.

As for the rest of the suspects, LGF notes that one is a biochemistry student and the other, as I mentioned yesterday, works at Heathrow (with an all-access security clearance). The Daily Mail confirms that two women were among those arrested, one pregnant and the other the mother of a six-month-old. I’d say the odds are good that one of them was the suspect who was released today. Among the lads, the Times of London says there weren’t two white converts to Islam within the group — there were three. ToL also has thumbnail descriptions of the suspects. As we all know by now, one suspect allegedly met George Galloway “many times,” a fact suddenly as unfamiliar to Georgie boy as blogs are to Ned Lamont.

A fact lost in the shuffle that shouldn’t be: it was an unnamed British Muslim who got the investigation started last year when he phoned in a tip about one of the plotters.

Here’s some intriguing news:

The U.S. Embassy in India’s capital warned Friday that foreign militants, possibly Al Qaeda members, may be planning to carry out bombings in two major Indian cities in the coming days.

An e-mail sent to American citizens registered with the embassy said New Delhi, the capital, and Mumbai, the country’s financial and entertainment hub, were the targets of the alleged plot, and that the attacks were believed to be planned around India’s Independence Day, which falls on Aug. 15.

The UK attack was planned for August 16. Coincidence? Maybe not — the leader of the Pakistani terror group Lashkar-e-Toiba was placed under house arrest yesterday, although Pakistani intelligence claims it was unrelated to the plane plot. In any case, it’s encouraging to see Pakistan eager to take credit for its role in busting the plot. They wouldn’t be so brazen if they felt the government was under serious threat of being toppled by Islamists. Or maybe it’s because they too know/think that more attacks are coming soon in India, and this is there way of preemptively establishing their anti-terror bona fides.

Many British Muslims are, predictably, still in denial. The leader of the Muslim Council of Britain is “shocked” that this could be true, despite the fact that a recent poll shows 31% of his younger constituents believe the 7/7 bombings were justified and 45% of British Muslims as a whole believe 9/11 was perpetrated by the American and Israeli governments. (Which, come to think of it, puts them pretty much in line with the general U.S. population these days.) The International Herald Tribune knows who suffered the real “blow” yesterday — and why:

“I grew up with him and I know him well for 10 years,” said Mustafa Mahmood, 18. “I can’t believe it because he was such a good person.”

“I am quite sure the government just did this and arrested people, so that people just stop paying attention to what is going on in Lebanon,” Mahmood added. “This is just a set-up.”

We close with the observation that jihadi lunatics are very big on dates, and August 16th is a very big date in western culture. What’s the significance? What message were they trying to send? I leave you, my friends, to ponder with the King.


Update: The Times of London mentions, almost as an afterthought at the end of this article, that Matiur Rehman is “understood” to be in custody in Pakistan. That’s a big score, if true; I wonder how sure they are of their report. Regardless, it suggests he wasn’t in fact in Afghanistan. But if he’s not the Afghan connection they mentioned earlier, who is? Is Rehman taking order from someone even higher up?

Also noteworthy, although it was first reported yesterday:

Scotland Yard is investigating possible links between the men arrested on Thursday and other British terrorists, including the July 7 bombers. They are concerned that some of those now in custody visited Pakistan last year at the same time as two of the London bombers. Pakistani intelligence sources are examining whether any of those arrested on Thursday attended the same madrassa, or religious school, as the 7/7 bombers.