British police claim to have uncovered an “immense” amount of evidence in their investigation into an alleged plot to bomb US bound airliners.
Among other items they claim to have turned up were “martyrdom videos,” suicide notes, bomb-making equipment and maps.
“The scale is immense. Inquiries will span the globe. The enormity of the alleged plot will be matched only by our determination to follow every lead, and every line of inquiry,” said Peter Clarke, chief of counter-terrorism for the London police.
Despite such claims however, police face growing public scepticism, particularly from Britain’s 1.5 million Muslims. Their cynicism follows earlier police raids – during which one young Muslim was shot – which failed to turn up any evidence of connections with “terror”.
In the face of such public cynicism police have been at pains to emphasise the threat of the danger faced.
“The threat from terrorism is real, it is here, it is deadly and it is enduring,” Clarke said at a news conference in which he announced that 11 of the 23 held for questioning would be charged.
“As we look for explanations, we cannot afford to be complacent and ignore the reality of what we face,” he added.
However legal experts said the government was under substantial public pressure to disclose the nature of the evidence after of two recent controversial cases.
In July, 2005, a 27-year-old Brazilian electrician was shot dead in London’s Underground by police officers who said he had emerged from a house that was being watched, and acted suspiciously. The shooting came a day after police claimed to have foiled a bomb plot aimed at London’s transit system, and three weeks after explosions killed 52 people.
In June this year, police looking for a purported chemical device raided a house in Forest Gate and shot 23-year-old Mohammed Abdul Kahar, who lived there, in what police claimed was an “accidental” shooting.
Kahar survived the shooting but no chemical device was found.
Public scepticism about the current case has grown since authorities announced sweeping arrests and the discovery of a plot police said was “intended to be mass murder on an unimaginable scale.”
Despite such talk recent polls show a precipitous decline in the public’s trust in government pronouncements in the War on Terror. Carried out over the past weekend, following the series of terror arrests, a Guardian/ICM poll revealed that many do not believe the government is giving an honest account of the threat facing Britain. Only 20% said they thought the government was telling the truth about the threat, while 21% of those questioned thought that the government has actively exaggerated the danger.
Muslim leaders have warned that a third case of unfounded or exaggerated allegations is likely to heighten tensions and resentment among Britain’s Muslims.