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The Strange Death of Britain’s Most Wanted Terrorist

The killing of Rashid Rauf raises questions about information sharing between the U.S. and Great Britain.

Annie Jacobsen


November 25, 2008 - 12:00 am
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Rashid Rauf, the suspected ringleader for the 2006 plot to blow up transatlantic airliners, has been killed by a U.S. drone in Waziristan, Pakistan.

The news comes as a surprise. What is not surprising is that the 27-year-old British terrorist of Pakistani descent was hiding in the tribal areas of northwestern Pakistan. Or that he was killed by a Predator drone carrying hellfire missiles launched from a U.S. base in Afghanistan and guided by technicians in Nevada. (There have been 24 such drone attacks aimed at terrorists in the region since August 31.)

What’s surprising is that it was the Americans who got him.

Before his death last week, Rashid Rauf was considered one of England’s most wanted terrorists. The plot he helped mastermind — under the direction of al-Qaeda — aimed to blow up multiple U.S.-bound aircraft with liquid explosives after the planes left London.

Since then, Rauf has been aggressively sought by Scotland Yard, first through extradition proceedings and later through British intelligence after he “escaped” from Pakistani custody last December. But U.S. intelligence remained relatively quiet about him. Rashid Rauf never appeared on the FBI’s list of most wanted terrorists.

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