air force 1 missile plot foiled

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    Julian Borger in Washington
    Wednesday August 13, 2003
    The Guardian

    A British arms dealer was arrested in New Jersey yesterday for trying to sell a shoulder-launched surface-to-air missile to a buyer he thought was a terrorist but who turned out to be an FBI agent conducting a sting operation.

    The identity of the dealer was not revealed, but reports identified him as being a Londoner of Indian descent. He was arrested at Newark airport after arriving on a British Airways flight. The British consulate was informed of his arrest, and he is due to appear in court today.

    According to initial reports, at least one other person was arrested in a series of raids in London and the New York area in an operation involving the US, British and Russian authorities.

    US and British officials said there was nothing to suggest that the arrested man was an al-Qaida member or part of any other terrorist group.

    "This was a guy who would sell to anyone. This was not an organisation. It was a sting," one US intelligence source said.

    However, an FBI official said that the dealer thought he was selling to terrorists when he negotiated the sale with undercover agents, and that he had boasted on tape that the missile could bring down an airliner or perhaps even Air Force One, President Bush's official plane.
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