RAF foils airline terror plot targeting four British cities as pop song code is cracked


From the Sunday Express. This story is now being reported by the regional newspapers for the towns targeted.

A TERRORIST plot to attack Britain was foiled after the RAF heard commercial pilots discussing targets on their radios.

The jihadist attacks were being planned in the week after the Paris massacre, but the two foreign pilots, one of whom was flying for an airline on an intelligence service watchlist, were intercepted talking about the plot.

Although they used coded messages from the cockpits of their passenger jets, the Arabic transcripts were passed to GCHQ where spies established they were talking about attacks on London, Bath, Brighton and Ipswich. 

The uncovering of the plan raised the terror alert in the UK and was one factor which led to Operation Templer, involving 10,000 soldiers being deployed to support police on Britain’s streets. 

The pilots, who were unknown to the authorities but believed to be sympathetic to Islamic State, were using the emergency “Mayday” channel in the belief they were not being monitored.

It is thought the pilots were preparing to smuggle in explosive devices or chemical weapons. The messages were intercepted as they flew from a European airport, thought to be Schiphol, in Amsterdan, to Middle Eastern destinations.It is believed that at least one of the airlines involved had already been placed on a UK aviation watchlist. 

The conversation was intercepted by RAF operators based at the National Air Traffic Services (NATS) Control Centre in Hampshire. Suspicions were raised and the recordings sent to GCHQ in Cheltenham, where analysts took seven hours to decode the transmissions. 

The voices of both pilots were found to be “clean” after being passed through a database of potential terrorists. This raised fears the pilots were part of an external IS “logistics team” that might be personally flying in terrorists and devices to the UK. 

Neither aircraft was intercepted and the pilots were allowed to fly on to their destinations. It is not known where they are now but their identities are known to security services and it is understood they are now high-profile, watchlist targets. 

Last night a senior intelligence source said: “The areas we believed these attacks might take place were given extra surveillance. Troops were on several hours notice to deploy as part of Operation Templer.” 

A senior RAF source added: “Alarm bells rang after several communications in code involving overseas airline pilots were picked up by chance. We can only assume that they considered it safer to use this frequency than other modes of communication.  We immediately passed these to the security services who then asked us to monitor certain airlines entering UK airspace.” 

It is understood the RAF has now been granted permission by Downing Street to deploy electronic surveillance aircraft outside UK skies to monitor certain airlines. Further assistance is being provided by the US Air Force based in Germany.

One Response

  1. All very interesting, BUT…I would rather not know.

    I would rather that the manner by which this plot was detected, and foiled, was NOT publicly revealed.

    We are at war. War is being waged upon us. In a war, when the enemy does something stupid that enables one to crack his code, anticipate his attacks, one does NOT broadcast far and wide the means by which this was done.

    Let the plot be foiled…and let the Enemy sweat and stew and fret and wonder…HOW, HOW, HOW did we, those he intended to attack and mass-murder, discover what he was up to? And let him not obtain the answer to that vexing question.

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