The New York Times reported as follows on September 9, 2008:
"A lengthy trial centering on what Scotland Yard called a plot to blow up trans-Atlantic airliners ended Monday when the jury convicted three of eight defendants of conspiracy to commit murder.
"But the jury failed to reach verdicts on the more serious charge of a conspiracy to have suicide bombers detonate soft-drink bottles filled with liquid explosives aboard seven airliners headed for the United States and Canada.
"The failure to obtain convictions on the plane-bombing charge was a blow to counterterrorism officials in London and Washington, who had described the scheme as potentially the most devastating act of terrorism since the Sept. 11 attacks seven years ago this week. British and American experts had said that the plot had all the signs of an operation by Al Qaeda, and that it was conceived and organized in Pakistan.
"The arrest in August 2006 of two dozen suspects, including the eight put on trial, set off a worldwide alarm in the airline industry and led to a tightening of airport security, including time-consuming restrictions on passengers carrying liquids and creams in their carry-on luggage that remain in force at most airports around the globe.
"But the case was hampered from the beginning, prosecutors said, by an investigation that was cut short, by the conflicting demands of intelligence agencies, and by problems with introducing evidence in the courtroom. To protect sources and methods, the prosecution was unable to introduce material from British or foreign intelligence agencies. In addition, Britain does not allow information in court that has been gathered from domestic wiretaps.
"The arrest in Pakistan of Rashid Rauf, a Briton of Pakistani descent who American, British and Pakistani officials said was a liaison to Al Qaeda, set off a series of events that led the British police to roll up the London-based cell far earlier than they had intended. The haste in making sweeping arrests made it hard for prosecutors to persuade the jury that the bomb plot had reached the stage at which an attack on airliners was imminent.
"Partly as a result, prosecutors never convinced the jury that the suspects were prepared to strike immediately, or even that they had chosen planes as their targets. Nor did they convict a man whom they had accused of having links to Al Qaeda in Pakistan.
"Britain's Crown Prosecution Service said it might decide to call for a retrial of the case if it decides it might win convictions on the most serious charges. A decision on that is expected within weeks. In addition, a number of other suspects will face trial related to the plot."
The post-9/11 war on terrorism has many mysteries buried deep inside. The first mystery is about Omar Sheikh, the alleged master-mind behind the
kidnapping and murder of Daniel
Pearl, the journalist of the Wall street Journal. He was sentenced to death by a court in Pakistan, but his sentence has not been executed. The hearing on his appeal against the sentence has been adjourned over a hundred times till now. He is the fittest case for interrogation
in Guantanamo Bay, but, for some strange reasons, the US authorities have shown no
interest in getting hold of him and taking him to Guantanamo Bay for interrogation
to find out the real truth about the kidnapping and murder of Pearl.
The second mystery is about the arrest by the Pakistani authorities in August 2006 of Rashid Rauf, a Briton of Mirpuri origin, who is related by marriage to Maulana Masood Azhar, the Amir of the Jaish-e-Mohammad. He was projected as one of the master-minds of the Bojinka-2006 plot and as the man, who tipped off the Pakistani authorities about the plot. No serious attempt was made by the British police to get hold of him, take him to the UK and interrogate him. He escaped from Pakistani custody in December,2007, and has not been traced so far. No attempt has been made by the Pakistani authorities to trace him.
One understands that there is a sensational untold story about these two mysteries, which could make a mother of all best sellers relating to the war on terrorism.
B. Raman is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai.