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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 August 2006, 02:02 GMT 03:02 UK
Police get 'bomb plot' extension
Police outside Heathrow Airport
Police have been given extra time to question 23 suspects
Police investigating an alleged bomb plot targeting UK to US flights have been given extra time to question 23 of the suspects.

A judge gave Scotland Yard an extension on Wednesday night, allowing detectives to question 21 people until 23 August, and two to 21 August.

A 24th person, arrested on Tuesday, has been released without charge.

Meanwhile, a woman passenger has been arrested after carrying hand cream and matches on a flight to the US.

She was held after a flight from London to Washington was diverted to Boston because of an on-board disturbance.

'Condemns terrorism'

Under the 2006 Terrorism Act the maximum period someone suspected of terrorist activity can be held for without charge is 28 days.

The 23 in custody in London were arrested in raids in London, High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, and Birmingham last week.

10 August: 24 people are arrested in raids in London, High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, and Birmingham
11 August: One of the 24 people arrested is released by police without charge
15 August: Another man is arrested in the Thames Valley area
16 August: A judge allows police extra time to question suspects over the alleged bomb plot
17 August: Person held in Thames Valley area released without charge
21 August: Police have until this date to question two of the suspects arrested last week
23 August: Police can question the other 21 people arrested on 10 August until this date

Searches are continuing at a number of addresses and parts of a wood in High Wycombe.

Detectives are searching for evidence at 22 separate locations across the country in an operation they expect to last for six weeks.

The BBC has learnt that officers have discovered "items of interest" during their search of a piece of woodland called Kingswood in High Wycombe.

It is thought they were looking for explosive detonators about the size of cigarettes.

On Tuesday, the brother of one of the suspects arrested over the alleged liquid bomb plot insisted that he had no involvement in terrorism.

Amjad Sarwar told Channel 4 News that his brother Assad was innocent.

"There is no way he could have anything to do with terrorism. He condemns terrorism.

"He's always talking about bin Laden being a terrorist and the Iraq war: they're all terrorists.

"So he condemns all that."

'Plot mastermind'

It is believed up to 17 people are being held in Pakistan over the alleged plot - with two British nationals of Pakistani descent among them.

A luggage diagram

Pakistani officials said one of the Britons, Rashid Rauf, was believed to have links to al-Qaeda, but they released no details about the other Briton.

Mr Rauf is believed to have played a pivotal role in planning the operation, as well as being the go-between between al-Qaeda and the alleged plotters in Britain.

Pakistani intelligence believe it was the Briton's role to plan and co-ordinate the operation on behalf of a senior al-Qaeda figure, described as the plot's mastermind, the BBC has learned.

It has also emerged that Britain wanted to delay making arrests to enable further tracking of the suspects, but Pakistan wanted to move in immediately.

The Pakistani Foreign Ministry has said it has not received a request from Britain for the extradition of Mr Rauf, but the option still remained open.

Security meeting

EU ministers met in London on Wednesday to consider their response to the alleged plot.

Speaking afterwards, Home Secretary John Reid said the countries of Europe must stand together to "evolve our reaction" to the "evolving threat".

"The EU, indeed the wider world, is now confronted by a form of terrorism that is unconstrained in its evil intention.

If we have to put more stuff in the hold, they are going to have to improve security against theft.
Martin, Nottingham

"Given the means of destruction on a massive scale which is available through modern technology - biological, chemical and other means - it is virtually unconstrained in its capacity and its ability to do immense harm, death and destruction."

Meanwhile, flights are gradually returning to normal, though BA said it is still searching for 5,000 pieces of luggage which have been misplaced in the confusion of the last few days at Heathrow alone.

See police continuing their investigations

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