Arrest of British man in Pakistan triggered raid

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The arrest of a British man in Pakistan triggered the raids which led to the capture of 24 people suspected of plotting to bomb several planes.

Rashid Rauf, was described by Pakistani officials as having links to al-Qa'ida and of being a key planner in the alleged plot. One of those arrested in Birmingham was Mr Rauf's brother, Tayib. Mr Rauf's uncle was murdered in Birmingham in 2002.

A series of arrests in Pakistan appears to have been instrumental in uncovering the alleged plot ­ the Home Secretary, John Reid, singled Pakistan out for thanks. But Pakistan was being cagey about the arrests. Pakistani officials said that was because they had been asked by the British not to release any further information. They did say, however, that acting on information supplied by the British, Pakistani police made several arrests which supplied information that led to the arrests of the alleged plotters.

Officials refused to confirm the exact number of arrests but it appears there were at least seven, and they took place between a week and 10 days ago. The two most important arrests were made in Lahore and Karachi, and a further five arrests were made of less significant players.

According to several unconfirmed reports yesterday, both the Lahore and Karachi arrests were of Britons who were involved in planning the alleged bombings. The five other arrests were of Pakistanis suspected of being part of a support network.

An Islamic militant ­ said by Pakistani sources to be of Uzbek origin ­ who was captured on the border with Afghanistan several weeks ago, also supplied information which helped uncover the alleged plot. Uzbek militants fought alongside al-Qa'ida in Afghanistan and many are still in the border region. Another arrest is believed to have taken place inFaisalabad several days ago which uncovered significant information, although the arrest was not directly linked to it.

There are rumours that some of those arrested in Britain may have visited Pakistan last year, possibly in the aftermath of the Kashmir earthquake, when large numbers of British Asians travelled to the region to help the relief effort.

* Italian police arrested 40 suspected Islamic activists on Thursday and Friday.