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Pakistanis find no evidence against 'terror mastermind'
Daily Mail (UK)
August 22, 2006

The Briton alleged to be the ‘mastermind' behind the airline terror plot could be innocent of any significant involvement, sources close to the investigation claim.

Rashid Rauf, whose detention in Pakistan was the trigger for the arrest of 23 suspects in Britain, has been accused of taking orders from Al Qaeda's 'No3' in Afghanistan and sending money back to the UK to allow the alleged bombers to buy plane tickets.

But after two weeks of interrogation, an inch-by-inch search of his house and analysis of his home computer, officials are now saying that his extradition is 'a way down the track' if it happens at all.

It comes amid wider suspicions that the plot may not have been as serious, or as far advanced, as the authorities initially claimed.

Analysts suspect Pakistani authorities exaggerated Rauf's role to appear 'tough on terrorism' and impress Britain and America.

A spokesman for Pakistan's Interior Ministry last night admitted that 'extradition at this time is not under consideration'.

Rauf's arrest followed a protracted surveillance operation on him and his family which, The Mail on Sunday has established, dates back to the 7/7 bomb attacks on London.

The possible link between 7/7 and the alleged plot emerged when this newspaper spoke to Rauf's uncle, Miam Mumtaz, in Kashmir.

Mumtaz was approached by two members of ISI, the feared Pakistani security service, as he nervously denied any knowledge of his nephew's alleged activities.

One ISI man said it had been monitoring all movement by Mumtaz and the rest of Rauf's relatives since the 7/7 attacks.

It is the first official acknowledgement of any suspected link between the London bombings and the plot to blow up planes flying from Britain to America.

But it comes against a welter of claims made by Pakistani security sources about Rauf, who is being interrogated by British and Pakistani agents in Rawalpindi.

The sources believe Rauf went to Afghanistan twice, where he made contact with senior Al Qaeda commanders. They also say he visited the border city of Quettain, where Taliban and Al Qaeda have a heavy presence.

They believe that at least seven of the suspects in custody in Britain travelled to Pakistan while planning the bombings.

Rauf left for Pakistan four years ago after another uncle was stabbed to death in Birmingham following an alleged dispute over an arranged marriage.

Meanwhile, Rauf's 54-year-old father Abdul was held at Islamabad airport as he tried to leave the country yesterday.

He was involved in setting up Ilford-based Crescent Relief, which is being investigated by the CharityCommission over claims that money donated for victims of the Kashmir earthquake last October could have been diverted to extremist groups.

Original Text