How US plotted to get UK's most wanted terrorist

Heads of American and Pakistani security colluded in plot to kill Rashid Rauf
Click to follow
The Independent Online

A secret meeting on board an American aircraft carrier between the US General David Petraeus and the head of the Pakistani military laid the foundation for the killing of Britain's most wanted terrorist.

The Independent learnt that talks held on board the USS Abraham Lincoln in the Persian Gulf three months ago led to General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani pledging to provide information on "high-value" targets such as Rashid Rauf, who died in a missile strike inside Pakistan on Saturday.

Senior UK security sources insisted that the lethal attack in North Waziristan on the 27-year-old Birmingham-born Rauf – accused of being involved in the plot to plant liquid bombs aboard transatlantic airliners – was "a unilateral American action" without any British involvement.

The disclaimer came after two senior MPs called on the British government to say whether or not it had been made aware in advance of the attack plan. Andrew Dismore, Labour chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights, said: "We can investigate whether British security services had involvement in providing intelligence concerning British nationals in Pakistan." The former shadow security minister Patrick Mercer, the Tory MP for Newark, said: "This raises the question of how much co-operation the British intelligence agencies provided in ... the execution of a British subject."

However, American officials stated that the intelligence on the whereabouts of Rauf and a Saudi Islamist, Abu Zubair al-Masri, was provided by Pakistani authorities. The agreement on sharing intelligence came during the meeting on the aircraft carrier in the Arabian Sea in the last week of August, US sources said.

General Kayani, who had taken over from General Pervez Musharraf as the head of the Pakistani military, was brought to the ship by American helicopters. He was told about grave American disquiet over the help being given to the Taliban by elements of the Pakistani military and intelligence service, the ISI. According to US officials an agreement was reached at the conclusion of the "heated" meeting with General Kayani, in which the Pakistanis promised to supply high-quality intelligence.

Rauf was initially wanted for questioning by police in England over the murder of his uncle in Birmingham. He fled to Pakistan but was arrested in August 2006 by the Pakistani police for his alleged involvement in the airliner plot. But in December 2007 he escaped.

Rauf's parents, who live in the Ward End area of Birmingham, have not received confirmation of his death, a friend of the family confirmed. The man, a shopkeeper who asked not to be named, said: "They don't know anything about this ... They have got no information and it's obviously not nice for them." A man who later emerged from the Rauf home, in a blue tracksuit and full beard, told reporters: "I am angry. For your own safety, all I can say to you is goodbye."

The Foreign Office could not confirm Rauf's killing. But Sherry Rehman, the Pakistani information minister, stated: "Sources have confirmed that Rashid Rauf and Masri were targets and have been killed."

Other Pakistani officials said that the bodies of the two men, along with five others killed, would be collected for DNA tests. However, Rauf's Pakistani lawyer, Hashmat Ali Habib, said that Taliban fighters appeared to have removed the bodies. "We are still not sure, it's all suspicious."