Page last updated at 14:52 GMT, Saturday, 22 November 2008

UK militant 'killed in Pakistan'

Rashid Rauf in Islamabad (December 2006)
Rashid Rauf escaped from police custody in Pakistan in 2007

A fugitive British militant linked to an alleged UK plot to use liquid bombs to blow up transatlantic airliners has been killed in Pakistan, reports say.

Pakistani media said Rashid Rauf, born in Birmingham, was killed in a US air strike in North Waziristan, a haven for militants and the Taleban.

Mr Rauf, on the run after escaping from Pakistani custody, was seen as a link between the UK plotters and Pakistan.

Three men were convicted in the UK in September of conspiracy to murder.

News of the liquid bomb plot paralysed global air travel, prompting authorities to implement stringent security measures at airports around the world.

Rashid Rauf was arrested in Pakistan on 9 August 2006, at the request of US authorities, who feared he was about to disappear into the remote north-west of the country.

Group accused of plotting to carry liquid explosives onto planes at London Heathrow Airport
Arrests in August 2006, after Rashid Rauf detained in Pakistan
Move prompted increased security at UK and US airports
At trial, three men convicted of conspiracy to murder
None found guilty of conspiring to target passenger aircraft

One day later authorities in the UK and the US implemented strict security measures at airports, fearing possible bomb attacks.

Hundreds of flights were delayed at airports around the world with massive disruption at major UK terminals and in the US, amid security service fears that militants were planning to mix liquids into lethal explosives.

Terrorism charges against the Briton were eventually dropped but he remained under detention in Pakistan as a "preventative measure".

Mr Rauf, who is thought to have Pakistani citizenship through his family connections, then escaped custody in December 2007 while on his way to an extradition hearing under police guard.

West Midlands Police in the UK were seeking his extradition from Pakistan as a suspect in the murder of his uncle, who was killed six years ago.

'Safe haven'

Several Pakistani TV channels reported that Mr Rauf was one of five people killed on Saturday by a presumed US attack in the country's remote north-western region.

Unnamed Pakistani intelligence sources said that a wanted Egyptian militant, Abu Zubair al-Masri, was among the others killed.

map showing North Waziristan
However, the BBC has so far been unable to independently confirm the news.

A young Asian woman at the Rauf family home in the Ward End area of Birmingham said they had had no confirmation of his death, and no contact from Britain's Foreign Office.

She said the family wanted to be left alone "to deal with this".

Islamist militants use the mountainous tribal areas along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan as a safe haven for training and resupply.

The US regularly uses pilotless drones to attack militant targets in the region, a tactic that has caused growing resentment among Pakistan's leaders.

On Thursday the government summoned the US ambassador in Islamabad to protest one day after an attack deep inside Pakistani territory killed five people - including at least one alleged militant.

Pakistan says the constant missile strikes infringe its sovereignty. The BBC's Barbara Plett, in Islamabad, says the attacks spark widespread anger in Pakistan - especially among tribal figures.

In that context, Saturday's attack will be reported in Pakistan as another violation of Pakistan's sovereignty and not for the possible killing of Rashid Rauf, our correspondent says.

The US says the insurgents use the territory to launch attacks against coalition forces in Afghanistan.

Islamabad has been pursuing a policy of ad-hoc peace deals with local Taleban commanders.

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