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8/10/06 World News: Britain Disrupts Terror Plot of "Unimaginable Scale"


BRITAIN TERROR PLOT: British authorities say they have disrupted a terrorist plan to blow up several airliners flying between Britain and the United States. A senior police official in London says the plot was "intended to be mass murder on an unimaginable scale." Police say terrorists planned to smuggle explosives onto as many as 10 airplanes in hand luggage and destroy the aircraft during trans-Atlantic flights. Security was tightened at airports in Europe and the United States, with many flights cancelled and severe restrictions on what passengers are allowed to bring aboard. Twenty-one people were arrested in police raids around Britain, and authorities are searching for more suspects. No details about the suspects were released, but a top British anti-terrorist officer (Peter Clarke) said the plot had "global dimensions." Britain and the United States both raised the security alert level for air travel. Passengers have been forbidden to bring any liquids aboard planes -- beverages, cosmetics or anything else -- with very few exceptions.

TERROR PLOT - US: The United States has raised its national security threat level for all commercial air flights and barred passengers from carrying any liquids aboard planes. The security alert system was raised to its highest level -- code red, signaling a severe risk of terrorist attack -- for all flights originating in Britain. The threat level for all other commercial flights to or from the United States was increased to (code orange which would) indicate a high risk of attack. The United States' director of homeland security says "currently there is no indication ... of plotting within the United States."

ISRAEL - LEBANON: Israeli government officials say they have put on hold plans for an expanded offensive in Lebanon, to give diplomats more time to organize an international peacekeeping force. Members of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's Cabinet say the decision to delay the offensive was made early today (Thursday). Just hours earlier, Israel's military had been given a go-ahead to send more troops deeper into Lebanon, to confront Hezbollah militants who have fired thousands of rockets into Israel over the past four weeks. Israeli officials say they hope for the success of a U.S.-led diplomatic campaign to form a robust international force that will curb Hezbollah's activities in southern Lebanon. But they add that Israel is ready to proceed with its military advance at any time. At the White House, President Bush's spokesman (Tony Snow) said (on Wednesday that) the United States wants an end to the violence, and does not want an escalation of the fighting.

ISRAEL - LEBANON: Israeli troops backed by tanks and armored vehicles appear to have taken control of the Lebanese town of Marjayoun and nearby villages overlooking the Litani River valley. Witnesses say Israeli forces entered the mainly Christian town, about 10 kilometers from the Israel-Lebanon border, early this (Thursday) morning. The reports from Marjayoun tell of fierce fighting, with Israeli armored units advancing through salvos of rockets fired by Hezbollah guerrillas. Residents of the town say two Israeli tanks were in flames, just outside Marjayoun. Israeli military officials say they are trying to destroy Hezbollah's rocket-launching sites in the (al-Khiam border) area. They say today's fighting is not part of a planned new offensive deeper into Lebanon.

IRAQ: Iraqi authorities say a suicide bomber blew himself up near a Shi'ite Muslim shrine in the southern city of Najaf today (Thursday), killing at least 30 people and wounding more than 50 others. Police say the attack took place in a market outside the Imam Ali Shrine -- one of the most sacred shrines of Shi'ite Islam. The offices of Iraq's most respected Shi'ite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, are also located near the shrine. Najaf -- located about 160-kilometers south of Baghdad and a major destination for Shi'ite pilgrims -- has been the scene of several sectarian attacks over the past years. In other developments, the U.S. military announced Wednesday the capture of four Iraqi men in connection with the kidnapping of American reporter Jill Carroll, who was held for 82 days before being freed in March.

CHINA - TYPHOON: Chinese authorities say Super Typhoon Saomai has slammed into the coast of eastern China. They say it is the most powerful storm to hit the country in decades. China's official Xinhua News Agency says Saomai made landfall at about 5:30 p.m. this (Thursday) afternoon (0930 UTC) near the city of Wenzhou in Zhejiang province. Forecasters say the storm had a maximum windspeed of 216 kilometers an hour before coming ashore. It is expected to move further inland, traveling northwest at about 20 kilometers an hour. Authorities have evacuated one-point-three million people from coastal regions of Zhejiang and Fujian province, just to the south.

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