A British government agency that oversees charities said Saturday it is looking into a report that several suspects in the alleged plot to bomb jetliners were linked by involvement with an aid group that raised money for Pakistani earthquake victims.
In Pakistan, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said Saturday that a senior al-Qaida leader in Afghanistan masterminded the foiled plot, following similar accounts from Pakistani intelligence officials. Aslam refused to give the person’s identity.
Pakistani intelligence officials allege the mastermind was in touch with Rashid Rauf, a Briton arrested in Pakistan and identified by that government as a “key person” in the plot. The officials claim Rauf recruited would-be bombers to take part in a large-scale attack to mark the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attack.
The Times newspaper said the aid group Crescent Relief London was founded in 2000 by Rauf’s father, Abdul. Rashid Rauf’s brother, 22-year-old Tayib, has been detained by British police.
Report: Suspects raised money for quake aid
The newspaper said five suspects in the alleged plot were involved in the aid group’s efforts to raise money for victims of last year’s devastating earthquake in Pakistan.
The Charity Commission, Britain’s charity watchdog, said it had not opened a formal investigation but was evaluating the allegations.
“We are looking into the suggestions that have been made to decide what regulatory action may be required by us,” the commission said in a statement.
No one answered the phone at Crescent Relief’s offices Saturday, but The Times quoted director Ghanzafer Ali as saying he would welcome an inquiry by the charity commission. He said Abdul Rauf no longer worked with the group.
Mohammed Nazam, a friend of Abdul Rauf’s in Birmingham, said he was not aware of Rauf’s fundraising efforts, but added there was nothing suspicious about sending aid to Pakistan.
“When we send money to Kashmir, it does not mean we are funding terror,” Nazam said.
He referred to a Himalayan region claimed by both India and Pakistan. The portion controlled by India has been mired in an insurgency by Islamic separatists that has seen more than 68,000 people killed since 1989.
Martyrdom videos found on laptops
Meanwhile, several martyr videos were reportedly discovered on at least six laptops owned by some of those being questioned in the foiled plot.
Citing an unofficial police source, the British Broadcasting Corp. said several videos of the type that suicide bombers sometimes leave had been found during the investigation.
London’s Metropolitan Police did not comment on the report, which came after police chiefs said hundreds of officers from across Britain had joined the investigation, one of the largest in British history.
Last week, a U.S. law enforcement official said one “martyrdom” tape had been found by investigators.
Dozens of specialist police teams are continuing sweeps of homes, businesses and a stretch of woodland thought to hold clues in the alleged conspiracy to detonate liquid explosives aboard at least 10 jetliners.
Police said they have carried out searches of 51 locations in London, High Wycombe and Birmingham.