French minister says plotters likely Pakistani

By Jon Boyle

PARIS- The perpetrators of a foiled attempt to blow up airliners flying from Britain to the United States are likely to be of Pakistani origin, France’s interior minister said on Thursday.

“In two to three days we’ll have more concrete info

rmation on the modus operandi of this terrorist group, that appears to be of Pakistani origin,” Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy told reporters.

An Interior Ministry spokesman said Sarkozy had spoken to his British counterpart John Reid during the day and had congratulated him on the success of the British operation.

Separately, a senior Pakistani official said that Pakistan’s intelligence services had helped foil the plot but said none of the 21 people arrested in Britain in connection with the plot were Pakistani nationals.

Sarkozy also said that France would order full searches of all handluggage on flights to the United States, Britain and Israel as part of stepped up security after the foiled plot.

He said France would leave its current security alert level at red, the second highest, and that security on the Eurostar rail link between France and Britain would be increased.

“We have decided … to conduct 100 percent searches of handluggage on all flights bound for the United States, Britain and Israel,” Sarkozy said.

“We will also carry out random searches and step up patrols on the Eurostar, and stations and airports in France,” he said.

He said there appeared to be no link between the suspects arrested by British authorities and known terrorist groups in France but he expected to receive further briefings from British authorities in the next few days.

British police on Thursday foiled a suspected plot to blow up several aircraft mid-flight between Britain and the United States in what Washington said might have been an attempted al Qaeda strike.

Sarkozy noted that France stepped up surveillance of its growing Pakistan community last year and said the measures would now be reinforced.

“We have decided to boost our sources of information and vigilance regarding this community whose members overall pose no problem, but in which there could be a few problems.”

But he said that reinforced security measures introduced after the July 7, 2005, attacks on the London underground meant that there would be no change to the general alert level.

France went on red alert on July 7 last year in response to attacks on London transport by Islamist suicide bombers that killed 52 people. — Reuter