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UK Foils 'Operation Bojinka II' Multiple Airliner Plot

British authorities are disclosing that they have foiled a major plot to smuggle explosives into US-bound flights from Heathrow Airport in London and possibly other UK airports and detonate them in-flight. The most recent reports indicate that 21 individuals have been taken into custody from London, Birmingham and in Thames Valley. Many flights into and out of Britain have been cancelled or put on hold or and severe restrictions have been imposed on items that passengers are able to take on flights. It appears that the plot involved a plan to smuggle liquid-explosives onto as many as 10 aircraft and blow them up over the Atlantic Ocean.

Comments from police indicate that the plot involved some sort of liquid chemical. Some luggage restrictions instituted by the British Department of Transportation and reported by the Times (UK) suggest the same; contact lens holders may be taken on board flights, but not bottles of solution, prescription medicines and medical items not in liquid form unless verified as authentic, and other restrictions have been put in place. The article has a full list.

A recent timeline indicates that the arrests began overnight in Britain, with the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre raising the UK threat state to its highest level around 2 a.m., or 9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. According to the BBC, as many as 10 aircraft were targeted. Although reports suggest that at least some the plotters were under surveillance for several months, the anti-terror operation was set in action when, as phrased to the BBC, “something happened” and “interesting items” were found that required immediate action. Passengers and their luggage are being closely scrutinized due to the possibility that there might be some sort of “sub-plot, back-up plot around this that the police aren’t aware of” according to an official statement. Authorities suggest that the plot was fairly imminent, not intended for the next day but possibly within the next week or so. The Guardian has a full text of the most recent statement by Scotland Yard.

The BBC report also indicates that the main plotters were “British-born” and that a “good number of community leaders” have been contacted in order to make them aware that a major anti-terror operation was underway. Although at this time authorities have not indicated if the plot was tied to a specific group, memories are still fresh of last July’s underground train bombings which killed 52. London has long been viewed as an incubator for terrorism as Britain’s policy of tolerance for radical Islamic organizations has given the capital city the moniker of “Londonistan” among European anti-terrorism analysts. Time will certainly bear out the details of the origins of this plot.

The BBC’s Britain page can be expected to have updates throughout the day, and currently has live video briefings.

This appears to be a plot that would resemble a “Bojinka II” operation. The original Operation Bojinka - planned by al-Qaeda before September 11, 2001 - sought to blow up multiple US-bound airliners as they flew rom Asia to America over the Pacific Ocean. To learn more about the original Operation Bojinka, read this December 2001 Washington Post article by Matthew Brzezinski titled Bust and Boom.