Police given more time to question suspects

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The Independent Online

Scotland Yard was yesterday granted more time by a judge to question 23 people suspected of being responsible for the alleged plot to bring down transatlantic airliners mid-flight with liquid explosives.

Anti-terror detectives applied in closed-court hearings for more time to question the 23 suspects in custody. In each case, officers presented evidence to a district judge for him to decide whether it was sufficient to warrant further detention.

The suspects, including three women, were arrested during raids in London, Buckinghamshire and Birmingham. Intelligence agencies believe that among the 23 people being held is allegedly one of the most senior al-Qa'ida figures in Britain. On Tuesday, a 24th person was arrested in the Thames Valley area but released without charge last night.

The Metropolitan Police can detain 21 people until 23 August, and two until 21 August. Detectives are expected to seek a series of further extensions - taking them close to the maximum 28 days - before deciding whether to charge or release the suspects.

Police are continuing to search about 20 properties, and woodland sites in High Wycombe.

In Pakistan up to 17 other suspects are in custody, including Rashid Rauf, a British citizen from Birmingham whose surprise arrest forced Scotland Yard into carrying out last week's raids. Mr Rauf is considered to be a key suspect, however MI5 and the police do not consider him to be the "mastermind". Mr Rauf's uncle, speaking from Pakistan, described his nephew as a "very innocent young man, polite and gentle" who visited the country for weddings and funerals.