Terror suspects planned to use liquid explosives to blow up planes
U.S. sources say at least one martyrdom video was discovered related to the plot.
U.S. officials indicated that the plot would have had dire consequences if it had not been stopped--and that the attack would have come relatively soon.
"We knew timing; we knew method; we knew they had obtained all the components," says one U.S. intelligence official. "They were probably in the final stages of getting ready to run a test and do the real thing. That's why we went to red." Officials caution that other plotters might still remain at large and that as many as 10 additional plotters are being sought.
The men arrested in London were mostly British citizens of Pakistani origin. They were intending to use several bombers per plane. Because the attacks were to be nearly simultaneous, officials note that they might have been targeting a number of different airlines. But despite some press reports to the contrary, the would-be bombers had not yet attempted any trial runs.
Chertoff said the plan was similar to the one cooked up in the mid-1990s by 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed to blow up 11 airliners over the Pacific Ocean. The plot "was as sophisticated as any we have seen in recent years, as far as terrorism is concerned," Chertoff said.
This plot was "intended to be mass murder on an unimaginable scale," said London's Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner Paul Stephenson. British Home Secretary John Reid said the plotters planned loss of life on "an unprecedented scale." FBI Director Robert Mueller said that this had the "earmarks" of an al Qaeda plot but that there was no planning done within the United States. The discovery of the plot created mass disruptions in air travel in Britain and the United States. The Department of Homeland Security imposed new travel restrictions prohibiting any liquids on planes, including beverages, hair gels, and lotions.
Britain raised its threat warning level to "critical," signifying an imminent attack. The United States raised its threat level to the highest level of "severe," or red, for commercial flights from the United Kingdom to the United States, according to the Department of Homeland Security. DHS also said that the threat level has been raised to "high," or orange, for all commercial flights operating in or coming to the United States. But the nation's overall terror threat level has not been altered.
With Kevin Whitelaw