LONDON Ñ The British government has reported an Al Qaida plot to attack British
commercial airliners in Saudi Arabia.
The government of Prime Minister Tony Blair said
London has received what it termed "credible intelligence" of a serious threat
to British aircraft in the Saudi kingdom.
The alert, British officials said, included the prospect that Al Qaida
insurgents might fire a missile at a British passenger jet leaving from King
Khaled airport in Riyad. The officials said the alert was based on a
document found in a Saudi raid on an Al Qaida safe house.
In response, British Airways has suspended flights to Saudi Arabia, Middle East Newsline reported. On
Thursday, the London-based Telegraph daily reported that the target of the
Al Qaida attack was a British Airways Boeing 777 at Riyad airport.
The British alert is said to have included the prospect that Al Qaida
has obtained the SA-7 or the more advanced SA-18 infra-red missiles. The
Igla has a range of 5.2 kilometers and is regarded as more accurate than the
older model SA-7.
"There is credible intelligence of a serious threat to UK aviation
interests in Saudi Arabia," a British government spokesman said on
British special operations forces have raided two homes of a British
national, Hemant Lakhani, in London on charges of seeking to supply Al Qaida
with the Igla missiles for attacks in the United States. Two other men were
Saudi officials reported that an Al Qaida cell has targeted British
interests in the Arabian kingdom. But Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef
Bin Abdul Aziz said authorities have not received any alert of a plot to
bomb or hijack a British plane in Saudi Arabia.
Nayef said seven members of an insurgency cell were captured and 10
others escaped in a Saudi security operation on Tuesday in southern Riyad.
But the minister refused to confirm that the cell was planning to attack a
"This is groundless," Nayef told the Al Riyad daily on Thursday. "There
were no attacks at all [on British interests]."
In Washington, the State Department again warned Americans to avoid
travel to Saudi Arabia. The department updated an alert issued in July and
reported an increased prospect of attacks against Americans in the kingdom.
"The U.S. government has received indications of terrorist threats aimed
at American and Western interests, including the targeting of transportation
and civil aviation," the department said in a statement on Wednesday. "There
is credible information that terrorists have targeted Western aviation
interests in Saudi Arabia. American citizens in Saudi Arabia should remain
vigilant, particularly in public places."