LONDON (AP) — Nine men suspected of plotting attacks on the U.S. Embassy and the London Stock Exchange were charged with terrorism-related crimes Monday and jailed until their next court appearance.
A dozen men were arrested last week in London, Cardiff and Stoke-on-Trent in central England in the largest British anti-terror raid in two years. Three were released without charge. The arrests came at a time of heightened anxiety about terror plots in Europe.
British officials have released few details, but U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the American Embassy in London was among the alleged plot’s possible targets.
“(We) are obviously taking suitable security precautions,” Toner told reporters in Washington.
U.K. officials have previously said that possible targets included the Houses of Parliament in London and shopping areas elsewhere in the U.K. Others on the potential target list included the London Stock Exchange as well as political and religious figures, the BBC reported, citing court proceedings.
A spokeswoman for Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service said she could provide no comment or confirmation of what was said in court Monday, a national holiday in Britain.
Although the arrests occurred on Dec. 21, in the run-up to Christmas, a security official told The Associated Press last week that this latest conspiracy didn’t appear to be timed for the holidays. It also wasn’t linked to a larger European plot uncovered in the fall involving a Mumbai-style shooting spree in cities across Britain, France or Germany, or to last week’s suicide bombing in Sweden, he said.
He spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing.
The suspects are expected back in court Jan. 14 on a variety of terror-related charges including conspiracy to cause explosions.
Europe has been the target of numerous terror plots by Islamist militants. The deadliest was the 2004 Madrid train bombings, when shrapnel-filled bombs exploded, killing 191 people and wounding about 1,800.
Britain’s terror alert has remained unchanged at “severe” while Germany upped its terror alert Nov. 17 in response to an increased threat from Islamic extremists.
Since the 2005 suicide bombing attacks on London’s transportation network that killed 52 commuters, there have been a number of other alleged terror plots in Britain.
In April 2009, 12 men were detained over an alleged al-Qaida bomb plot in the northern city of Manchester. All were subsequently released without charge and ordered to leave Britain. One of them, Abid Naseer, was later re-arrested at the request of the U.S., which says he was involved a plot to bomb the New York City subway. He is in jail awaiting extradition.
In 2006, U.S. and British intelligence officials thwarted one of the most dramatic plots yet made public, a plan to explode nearly a dozen trans-Atlantic airliners.
The nine men in the latest alleged plot are: Gurukanth Desai, 28, Omar Sharif Latif, 26, and Abdul Malik Miah, 24, from Cardiff, Mohammed Moksudur Rahman Chowdhury, 20, and Shah Mohammed Lutfar Rahman, 28, from London, and Nazam Hussain, 25, Usman Khan, 19, Mohibur Rahman, 26, and Abul Bosher Mohammed Shahjahan, 26, from Stoke-on-Trent.
The decision to charge them was announced early Monday, with police saying that the conspiracy started Oct. 1 and continued until Dec. 20, the day of the arrests.
The men are also accused of preparing for acts of terrorism, downloading and researching materials and methods for acts of terrorism, and carrying out reconnaissance missions and testing incendiary material.
Associated Press Writer Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.