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Three More Arraigned in Britain for Airliner Plot

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

In London, three more British men arrested in the plot to blow up American-bound airliners have been arraigned and denied bail. Of the two-dozen people originally arrested in the alleged plot, 15 are facing charges while five others remain in custody for further questioning.

NPR's Rob Gifford has the latest from London.

ROB GIFFORD reporting:

The three men were formally charged at a central London court with a conspiracy to murder and planning acts of terrorism by plotting to blow up planes. The men are in their 20s and 30s and all of Pakistani descent. Yesterday's arraignment brings to 11 the total number of people being held on the most serious charges of conspiracy to murder. Four other people, including a 17-year-old and a mother of an eight month old baby, are accused of lesser offenses, such as withholding information about a planned terrorist act from police. Five others have been released without charge. Five are still in custody being questioned.

A new law brought in last year extended the period police can detain suspects without charge from 14 to 28 days, so the police have until September 6th to either charge or release the remaining five. The allegations are that those charged planned to use homemade liquid explosives to bring down several airliners over the Atlantic Ocean on the way from Britain to the United States. U.S. official say they believe the plot, if carried out, could have been deadlier than the September 11th attacks.

Police in Britain said last week they'd seized martyrdom videos, an apparent reference to videotaped testaments by would-be suicide bombers. Investigators are also analyzing thousands of pieces of evidence from searches of 50 properties, dozens of cars, as well as open spaces and Internet cafes. The head of the London Police Anti-Terrorist Department said they'd also discovered chemicals that can be used to make bombs, including hydrogen peroxide and electrical components.

Authorities in Pakistan are still questioning several people in relation to the alleged plot, including two Britons of Pakistani origin. Britain has applied for the extradition of one of those men who Pakistan has described as a key player in the alleged plot.

Rob Gifford for NPR News, London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.