Wow, this is big news.

US-UK Traffic Targeted

British police on Thursday said they had foiled a major terrorist plot to blow up several airplanes traveling from Britain to the United States with explosives smuggled in hand luggage. Multiple arrests have been made.

REUTERS
A policeman patrols Heathrow airport in London following threats of a terrorist attack on Thursday.
British Home Secretary John Reid said the threat posed by the plot to “bring down a number of aircraft through mid-flight explosions” would have caused “a considerable loss of life.” The would-be attackers had targeted as many as 10 planes and were apparently close to carrying out their plan.
“The police believe the alleged plot was a very significant one indeed,” Reid said. “At 2 a.m. this morning the Joint Terrorism Analysis Center raised the UK threat state to its highest level critical.”

Reuters reported that police had taken at least 15 people into custody in London after a major anti-terrorist operation lasting several months. The suspects apparently wanted to use some sort of liquid chemical devices to cause explosions.

“We don’t think that it was planned to happen today,” a police source told told Reuters. “We had intelligence and we had to move against what was a planned attack. The plan was to take a ready-made explosive device rather than something which would be made up on board.”

The incident has created havoc at Britain’s major airports, as the authorities are forbidding passengers from taking almost any hand luggage onboard.

Electronic items like laptops, mobile phones and iPods were all coming in for particular scrutiny. The BBC reported that passengers were being giving transparent plastic bags for only the most essential items such as wallets and passports. Several flights going in and out of Britain were cancelled on Thursday and officials in the United States also raised the security threat level for commercial aircraft.

Increased threat level

US Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said the threat level for commercial flights originating in the United Kingdom would be raised to an unprecedented “severe” level or color-coded red.

“Currently, there is no indication … of plotting within the United States,” Chertoff said. “We believe that these arrests have significantly disrupted the threat, but we cannot be sure that the threat has been entirely eliminated or the plot completely thwarted.”