Nine men remanded in custody over British bomb plot
Nine men were remanded in custody in Britain on Monday charged with planning attacks in a pre-Christmas plot reportedly targeting the London Stock Exchange and US embassy.
The men appeared at London's City of Westminster Magistrates Court on charges of conspiring to cause explosions "of a nature likely to endanger life or cause serious injury to property" between October 1 and November 20 this year.
The suspects, aged between 19 and 28, also face charges of involvement in the preparation of an attack by having downloaded and researched methods and materials, and of scouting potential targets.
At least five of the men, who were arrested a week ago in pre-dawn raids, are of Bangladeshi origin.
British media reported that police investigators believe the potential targets in the days before Christmas included the London Stock Exchange and the US embassy, as well as political and religious figures.
In court, each man spoke only to confirm his name, date of birth and address, before District Judge Howard Riddle remanded them to appear at the Old Bailey court in London on January 14.
The men were arrested on December 20 when police raided properties in Birmingham, London, Cardiff and the central town of Stoke-on-Trent.
The raids took place after several months of surveillance and monitoring by police and intelligence officers.
A dozen suspects were arrested but three were subsequently released.
Sue Hemming, of Britain's prosecution service, said before the court hearings that sufficient evidence had been uncovered to bring charge of "conspiracy to cause explosions" and preparing "acts of terrorism" with the intention of either committing the acts themselves or helping others to do so.
Hemming said prosecutors had filed the charges after reviewing evidence provided by the West Midlands counter-terrorism unit.
Lord Alex Carlile, Britain's independent reviewer of counter-terrorism laws, told lawmakers at the time of the arrests that the allegations against the men involved a "significant" plot.
A bombing in the Swedish capital Stockholm earlier this month has heightened concerns in Britain because the man thought to have been the attacker lived in the town of Luton near London.
Swedish investigators say they are "98 percent certain" that the man who blew up his car and himself was Iraqi-born Taimour Abdulwahab.
He had attended a university in Luton and had been living in the town with his wife and three children for the past few years.
Representatives of the mosque he attended have spoken of a popular man who developed extremist views.
It is believed Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian held in the United States on charges of trying to bomb a Detroit-bound passenger jet with explosives in his underwear a year ago, was radicalised while a student in London.
Five years after four suicide bombers killed 52 innocent people on London's transport network, Britain is on high alert after having upgraded its perceived terror threat level earlier this year to "severe."
This is the second highest on a five-level grading, indicating that a terrorist attack is "highly likely," according to the Home Office, Britain's interior ministry.
The threat level was hiked in January after a six-month spell at "substantial" -- the only time it has dipped below the two highest levels since it was set up in 2006, following the London bombings in July 2005.
© 2010 AFP