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British police make 'Al-Qaeda plot' searches

British police searched houses and properties and questioned 11 Pakistanis Friday in a probe into an alleged planned Al-Qaeda attack, as London and Islamabad traded accusations over fighting terrorism.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who wants more assistance from Pakistan in rooting out extremists targeting Britain, held telephone talks with President Asif Ali Zardari.

But Pakistan's ambassador to London insisted that Islamabad was doing all it could to fight extremists and said Britain needed to do more to tighten up its borders and help Pakistan stop terrorism from spreading.

Police searched 10 properties across northwest England, where officers had carried out hastily arranged raids in broad daylight Wednesday after Britain's top anti-terror officer inadvertently revealed details of the operation.

The men arrested were allegedly planning to attack shopping centres and a nightclub in Manchester.

Brown's Downing Street office said he and Zardari "agreed that the UK and Pakistan share a serious threat from terrorism and violent extremism, and committed to work together to address this common challenge."

In an interview with Al Jazeera English television, Brown said that two-thirds of the terror plots investigated in Britain originated from Pakistan.

"Pakistan has got the problems of an economic set of difficulties at the moment but also groups of terrorists in their country operating from their country," he said.

"We need all the cooperation that we have with the Pakistani authorities to deal with these problems."

Eleven of the 12 men seized in the raids are Pakistani nationals living in Britain on student visas obtained in Pakistan, but the British government denied its immigration policy was failing.

Immigration Minister Phil Woolas insisted that checks on applicants to weed out extremists were adequate.

"It's naive to think that we don't check -- we do work very closely with the Pakistan authorities," he told BBC Radio.

Wajid Shamsul Hasan, Pakistan's high commissioner to London, said his government was doing all it could.

"We are accused of not doing enough. We are doing enough, despite our limited resources," he told Sky News television from Islamabad.

"We will continue to do whatever is possible, within our means, to fight them (extremists).

"We are at the fag end of our resources... What else can we do?

"We have been telling our Western friends to provide us assistance, equipment and training... so that we can put our act together and carry on with the war."

Earlier he pointed the finger at Britain's student visa system, saying: "It is at your end you have to do something more."

British government figures show that more than 42,000 student visas were issued to Pakistanis between April 2004 and April 2008.

Figures from 2006 showed 98 percent of applications for extension of leave to remain in Britain were granted.

A Home Office spokesman said everyone applying to study in Britain was checked out.

"Every student wishing to study in the UK undergoes scrutiny -- including fingerprint checks against a range of immigration, terrorism and crime watch lists," he said.

"We'll do everything in our power to bar those who are up to no good."

Wednesday's raids had to be brought forward after Assistant Commissioner Bob Quick was photographed carrying clearly legible details of the operation. He resigned over the blunder.

The document showed the alleged plot was "AQ-driven," meaning Al-Qaeda.

Britain has been on high security alert ever since the July 2005 attacks on the London transport system, which killed 56 people including four suicide bombers. Failed car bomb attacks targeted London and Glasgow in June 2007.

Copyright 2009 AFP Global Edition
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Author:AFP
Publication:AFP Global Edition
Date:Apr 10, 2009
Words:584
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