23 Nov 2008

British militant 'killed in Pakistan'

8:58 am on 23 November 2008

A fugitive British militant linked to an alleged UK plot to use liquid bombs to blow up transatlantic airliners in 2006 is reported to have been killed in Pakistan.

Pakistan media said Birmingham-born Rashid Rauf was among at least five people killed in a US air strike in North Waziristan, a haven for militants and the Taliban.

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

He had been 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.

News of the liquid bomb plot sparked a worldwide security alert and 24 people were detained in Britain.

The plot to smuggle explosive liquids onto aircraft in soft drinks bottles led to a mass cancellation of flights from London's Heathrow Airport.

It also forced an overhaul of airport security and global restrictions on liquids travellers can take on board flights.

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

Rashid Rauf is thought to have been radicalised by an extremist Islamic sect after he fled Britain in 2002.

While in Pakistan he married into the family of Masood Azhar, the chief of the radical al-Qaeda-linked group, Jaish-e-Mohammad.

When arrested, Rauf told investigators he had met senior al-Qaeda commanders during frequent trips to tribal districts and across the border in Afghanistan.

The British government asked Pakistan to extradite him as he was wanted by police in connection with the murder of his uncle Mohammed Saeed, 54, who was stabbed to death in Birmingham, England, in April 2002.

Terrorism charges against the Briton were eventually dropped but he remained under detention in Pakistan as a "preventative measure", and escaped last December from police custody.