London: Fears of a possible attempt by al Qaeda-linked terrorists in Pakistan to hijack an Indian passenger jet and crash it into a British city may have prompted the UK to raise its terror alert to its
second-highest level, a media report claimed here on Sunday.
`The Sunday Times` reported that the threat to hijack an
Indian aircraft was uncovered during the interrogation of
Amjad Khwaja, said to be a leader of Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, who was arrested in India.
The paper claimed that MI5, the British internal
intelligence agency, was told by the Indian authorities
earlier last week about a suspected plot by militants linked
to al Qaeda in Pakistan to hijack an Air India or Indian
Airlines flight from Mumbai to Delhi.
The warning, which came after the capture of Khwaja, was
contained in a detailed "threat assessment" sent to MI5 by the
Indian Intelligence Bureau, the report claimed.
It did not state that Britain was a specific target. But
police security sources said it had raised fears in London
that a British city might be attacked.
The warning revived long-running concerns following an
al Qaeda plot in 2003 in which a hijacked aircraft was to be
flown into Heathrow airport.
British Home Secretary Alan Johnson on Friday announced
that the threat level to Britain was being raised from
"substantial" to "severe". That is the second-highest level
and means that an attack is "highly likely".
The official terror threat was at the severe level for
four years after the July 7 bombings in London in 2005. It was
downgraded last July.
The latest move comes exactly four weeks after the
Christmas Day attempted suicide attack on a US airliner over
The FBI has charged a former British student and Nigerian
national Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab with the failed attack.
While insisting that there was no specific intelligence
suggesting an attack, senior counter-terrorism officials said
privately that the "Indian warning" was "a factor" in the
move, the report said.
Officials also said that the CIA warned two weeks ago
about a possible plot by al Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula,
the group behind the Detroit attack, to attack a second
aircraft using terrorists trained at its camps in Yemen.
Following a meeting on Monday with spy chiefs, Premier
Gordon Brown told MPs: "We know that a number of terrorist
cells are actively trying to attack Britain and other