LONDON – Britain's charity watchdog said Saturday it was examining claims that several suspects in the alleged plot to bring down trans-Atlantic jets were linked by their involvement with an aid group that raised money for victims of last year's devastating earthquake in Pakistan.
The Times newspaper reported that Crescent Relief London was founded in 2000 by Abdul Rauf, whose 25-year-old son, Rashid, was arrested in eastern Pakistan days before the alleged plot was foiled. Another son, 22-year-old Tayib, has been detained by British police.
The newspaper said the aid group may have linked them to plot suspects in High Wycombe, where five of the 23 people being held were arrested. All the High Wycombe suspects had been involved with Crescent Relief's earthquake aid efforts last year, the newspaper reported.
The Charity Commission, a government agency that regulates charities' activities, said it had not opened a formal investigation but was evaluating the allegations.
"We are looking into the suggestions that have been made to decide what regulatory action may be required by us," the commission said in a statement.
No one answered the phone at Crescent Relief's offices Saturday, but The Times quoted director Ghanzafer Ali as saying he welcomed the charity commission's inquiry. He said Abdul Rauf no longer worked with the group.
Mohammed Nazem, a friend of Abdul Rauf's in Birmingham, said that while he was not aware of Rauf's fund-raising efforts, there was nothing suspicious about sending aid money to Pakistan.
"When we send money to Kashmir, it does not mean we are funding terror," Nazem said.
Meanwhile, several martyr videos were reportedly discovered on at least six laptops owned by some of those being questioned in the foiled plot.
The British Broadcasting Corp., citing an unofficial police source, said that several videos of the type that suicide bombers sometimes leave had been found as part of the investigation.
London's Metropolitan Police did not comment on the report, which came after police chiefs said that hundreds of officers from across Britain joined in the massive investigation, one of the largest in British history.
Last week, a U.S. law enforcement official said one "martyrdom" tape had been found by investigators.
Staff from nearly every police force in Britain are working on the terror case, and dozens of specialist teams are continuing sweeps of homes, businesses and a stretch of dense woodland thought to hold clues in the alleged conspiracy to detonate liquid explosives aboard the planes, police said. Police have carried out searches of 51 locations in London, High Wycombe and Birmingham.