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26/11-style threat to Europe: The Pak connection

Last updated on: October 3, 2010 20:52 IST

26/11-style threat to Europe: The Pak connection

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Some Pakistan-based terrorists who were plotting a Mumbai-style attack on London and other European cities have been identified by investigators, who matched their voices in intercepted calls with a secret database.

UK's top communication and intelligence agency has identified some of the terrorists in the recently-unravelled plot in which at least 20 young British Muslims were being trained at Al Qaeda terror camps in Pakistan to launch Mumbai-style attacks in Europe.

The Government Communications Headquarters, Britain's electronic eavesdropping centre popularly known as GCHQ identified some of these terrorists, The Sunday Times said but did not name any.

The centre, based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, intercepted telephone calls made by British militants at a training camp in the tribal borders of Pakistan to identify the suspects.

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According to the paper, some are said to come from the Rochdale area, others from the Midlands.

Matching their voice-prints allowed the security services to trace their connections to other individuals in their network.

An important aspect of GCHQ's work is the analysis of voice-prints, a technique that can identify a voice speaking on a telephone in Afghanistan or Pakistan by matching it against a databank of suspects held by GCHQ.

"You pick up a voice and if you find a match for it in the database, you can get a name. Then you get the call data and see who the guy has been calling," one expert said.

The method was apparently used to pick up "credible" intelligence of the plan for simultaneous attacks by British and foreign insurgents against several European cities.



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An MI5 surveillance operation began tracking potential suspects in London and northwest England earlier this year.

In a strike on September 8, three pilotless predator drones fired a barrage of hellfire missiles at a suspected militant hideout on the Ghulam Khan road in North Waziristan.

According to the daily, the targets were suspected European jihadis who were allegedly being trained in combat mission against their home countries.

The missiles killed a British man, one of the two brothers said to be part of a 10-man team at the heart of an Al Qaeda plot against London and other European cities, the daily quoted a Pakistani intelligence official as saying.

The dead Briton was identified as Abdul Jabar, who originally hailed from Jhelum district and is said to be one of the team of jihadis planning Mumbai-type attacks in the UK, France and Germany.



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The 20 youths, who came under the scanner, hold British passports, and are said to have travelled into the tribal areas of Pakistan to join terror training camps run by Al Qaeda and associated militant groups.

They were reportedly trained to use firearms as well as explosives so that they can carry out shooting sprees in Britain.

Under the plot, the terrorists were to be sent on to the streets, probably in capital cities, to shoot at random before heading into landmark buildings, as in the Mumbai outrage on November 26, 2008.

Contributors to a prominent jihadist website last December discussed the idea of carrying out attacks using machine guns against nightclubs, sporting venues and Jewish centres.



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Over the next few months, GCHQ, the government's eavesdropping centre in Cheltenham, started monitoring telephone discussions between suspects in militant training camps near the Afghan-Pakistan border and people in Europe as they discussed logistics.

Sources said there may have been up to 15 or 20 Britons whose voices have been picked up by GCHQ intercepts.

Details of the plot were not specific, however. Western intelligence agencies still do not know the targets or when the attacks are due to take place. The assessment that something big might be in the pipeline grew in July after the Americans arrested a German called Ahmed Siddique in Kabul.

He attended the same mosque in Hamburg as some of the leaders of the 9/11 plot.

He apparently told his American interrogators of "attack scenarios in Germany and neighbouring European countries".



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