Updating below, so scroll down...President Bush speaks...
British authorities said Thursday they had thwarted a terrorist plot to simultaneously blow up several aircraft heading to the U.S. using explosives smuggled in hand luggage, averting what police described as "mass murder on an unimaginable scale.
"Officials raised security to its highest level in Britain - suggesting a terrorist attack might be imminent - and banned hand-carried luggage on all trans-Atlantic flights. Huge crowds formed at security barriers at London's Heathrow airport as officials searching for explosives barred nearly every form of liquid outside of baby formula.
The extreme measures at one of the major international aviation hubs sent ripple effects throughout the world. Heathrow airport was closed to most flights from Europe.
The U.S. government responded by raising its threat alert to its highest level for commercial flights from Britain to the United States amid fears the plot had not been completely crushed. The alert for all flights coming or going from the United States was also raised slightly.
Lorie Byrd has been up blogging it most of the night:
Update 4:30 -- Fox News reports that terrorists were "not yet sitting on an airplane" but they were very close to traveling. They also are getting some reports that the number of arrests may be higher than 20 and could be as high as 50 and that there is a "footprint" to al Queda. At least two suspects believed to be involved with the plot are still at large.
Update 4:50 -- Scotland Yard News ConferenceRepeated basic info already reported above. Significant number of people involved. 21 people in custody. Extraordinarily serious plot which would have resulted in high number of deaths if not thwarted. Would not confirm where these terrorists come from at this time. Wanted to assure public that the inconvenience experienced by passengers is completely warranted. Said this is not about communities, but about mass murderers masquerading in communities.
Update 5:10 -- Fox says this was an international investigation and that Tony Blair had discussed it with President Bush on several occasions, both by phone and in person.Update 5:20: Several reporters are saying this thwarted attack had the potential of being bigger than 9/11. Scotland Yard news conference clip that is being rerun says this promised to be "mass murder on an unimaginable scale."
After 9/11 it is hard to imagine what could have been described as "unimaginable". There were six planes said to be involved. A plan to blow up six planes full of people is horrible, but I don't see how it could be said to be worse than 9/11, which included attacks on towers containing thousands of people and an attack on the Pentagon. I wonder what else was involved here.
1) Who made the decision among the Terrorists to begin the use of hand bags instead of shoe bombs to bring down airliners over the Atlantic? Are the two related? Are there other decisions to come?
2) Did the Jihadi-Terrorists study the possibilities of hand bags use and analyze the current state of security of the flights between the UK and the US? Have they been taking these flights back and forth and thus determine that it is feasible? So are there Terrorists flying with us and exploring the holes in the system?
3) Are there Jihadi Terrorists who are already inside the system (including the security structure) and have determined that attacks via explosives hidden in hand bags are possible? How did the design of the types of components that could be carried in these hand bags came to exist, and under whose expertise?
4) Why the insistence on striking a London US bound plane? What are the Jihadists trying to score on these air corridors? Why not London Pakistan and Venezuela lines?
5) What Jihadi command, organization, group are in charge of these operations, and where do they operate from? Is it London again? Is London's Jihad hub still operational, how large is it and who is recruiting for it?
6) Many have claimed that there are no Jihadi Terrorists in London during the past months arrests in Britain and "these are only Government conspiracies to single out specific communities, etc." If today's reports are verified, the latter question should be investigated as follow: Who is attempting to transform every lead against the Terrorists into a crisis with entire communities? Who in the UK and elsewhere is obstructing the full fledge war on Terrorism by protecting future Jihadi improvisation through accusing Governments (in the large sense of the word) of "political measures" while real Terror attempts are ongoing?
7) Is there a "Jihadi factory" in the UK which is targeting domestic and Transatlantic transportation; a factory that produces suicide bombers heading towards the Middle East, London subways and passengers flights towards the US? Who is ordering these strikes and are they located inside the British isles?
8) Are they British citizens? Who indoctrinates them and how and who forms these cells? Have they penetrated the technological and security systems of the Kingdom and are they receiving advice and help from the inside.
Michelle Malkin spots the missing word:
One word that you'll note that is missing from first coverage--well here, see for yourselves:Sky News' Crime Correspondent Martin Brunt said those arrested were mainly young, British-born Asian men.
The missing word is "Muslim." Young, Muslim men from Pakistan. Bloomberg News mentions the word in its report, not to describe the suspects, but only in a stupid bit of editorializing:Britain has 12,500 troops deployed in military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, a source of anger among some of Britain's Muslim population.
For crying out loud. No wonder Melanie Phillips calls it Lemmingland. DFH has more on the p.c. whitewashing. And Scotland Yard Deputy Commissioner Paul Stephenson goes out of his way to assuage Muslim grievance-mongers: "This is not about communities: it is about criminals, murderers, people who want to commit mass murder."
Speaking of stupid biased coverage, al Reuters suggests that Muslim anger not only over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also over Britain's support of Israel in the latest war with Hezbollah is to blame for the plot (which has been hatching for the last 8-9 months)
The Department of Homeland Security is taking immediate steps to increase security measures in the aviation sector in coordination with heightened security precautions in the United Kingdom. Over the last few hours, British authorities have arrested a significant number of extremists engaged in a substantial plot to destroy multiple passenger aircraft flying from the United Kingdom to the United States.
Currently, there is no indication, however, of plotting within the United States. 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.
For that reason, the United States government has raised the nations threat level to Severe, or Red, for commercial flights originating in the United Kingdom bound for the United States.
Some Planes Were To Be Blown Up Over US and UK Cities
British Security Source: Plot "Had the Potential To Be Bigger Than 9/11"
Tickets Were Bought/Were To Be Bought On Consecutive Flights Originating out of Gatwick, Birmingham, Manchester, & Heathrow, En Route To US; American Carriers Specifically Targeted
Twenty One Terrorists Arrested; Two More At Large (At Least); Unconfirmed Tip: Up to FIFTY Terrorists Involved In Plot
Terrorists Were Mostly British-Born Men "of Pakistani Origin"
United Kingdom At "Highest Possible State of Alert"
Scotland Yard "Confident" the Plot Has Been "Disrupted"
Majority of Arrests Made in London, Some In Birmingham and Thames Valley; Other Addresses Being Checked For Remaining Suspects
Terrorists Were Not On The Planes Yet, But They Were "Close"
US Official: A "Serious Al Qaeda Connection"
Bush, US Intel/Law Enforcement Have Known Of Investigation For Months
See Dubya's having deja vu, remembering a similar plot foiled in 1995.
The CAIR message: "Yeah, yeah, we heard about the "murder on an unimaginable scale,' but JUST DON'T PROFILE ANYONE. Let's keep sight of what's important, here."
UPDATE 11:49am: President Bush speaking:
"We are at war with Islamic fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom."
"Thank the people of the United Kingdom for their good work in busting this plot."
"The cooperation on this venture was excellent, cooperation between U.S. and U.K. officials and authorities was solid and the cooperation among agencies within our government was excellent."
"Obviously, we're still not completely safe because there are people who still plot."
"It is a mistake to believe there is no threat to the United States of America and that's why we have given our officials the tools they need to protect our people."
Of airline passengers: "I urge their patience and ask them to be vigilant..we will take the steps necessary to protect the American people."
"The American people need to know we live in a dangerous world, but our government will do everything we can to protect its people from those dangers."
UPDATE 5:07pm: All Things Beautiful is updating like mad, and using Roman numerals to do it, no less. Color me impressed.