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UK police arrest 16 in anti-terrorism raids

Adrian Croft / Reuters | September 2 2006

British police said on Saturday they had arrested 16 men in two separate anti-terrorism operations just three weeks after uncovering a suspected plot to bring down U.S.-bound airliners over the Atlantic.

Fourteen of the men were held in London in an overnight operation that a police source said focused on suspected training and recruitment of terrorists.

Anti-terrorist police in Manchester arrested two men early on Saturday and were carrying out three searches but this was not linked to the London arrests, police there said.

The arrests came after the head of London police's anti-terrorist branch, Peter Clarke, said on Friday that police were keeping tabs on thousands of British Muslims who they suspect may be involved in or support terrorism -- higher than previous official estimates.

The BBC said 12 arrests were made at a Chinese restaurant in south London that police in riot gear raided on Friday night. It said the probe may be linked to alleged terrorist training camps in Britain.

Police said in February they had uncovered evidence of such camps while other reports have spoken of militants going for adventure training to forge closer ties.

Two of the four Muslim suicide bombers who killed 52 people on London transport in July last year are believed to have gone on a team-building white-water rafting holiday in Wales weeks before the attacks.


Police said they were searching a school in East Sussex, southern England, in connection with the London arrests. The rambling independent school for Muslim boys, once a Victorian orphanage, is set in extensive grounds surrounded by woodland.

A report by government school inspectors last December said the school, which had nine pupils at the time, did not provide a satisfactory education.

Police said the 14 men held in London overnight were arrested in a "pre-planned, intelligence-led operation" that followed months of surveillance by police and security services.

The men, suspected of "the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism," were being held at a central London police station, they said.

They said the operation was not related to the arrests of more than 20 people on August 9-10 over an alleged plot by a group of British Muslims to blow up U.S.-bound airliners using liquid explosives. Nor were they related to last year's London attacks.

The BBC said the Chinese restaurant was full of people, including children, when police arrived on Friday night.

The restaurant's owner, Madi Blyani, told the BBC up to 60 officers entered the restaurant, which is popular with Muslims.

"They suddenly came inside because they were suspicious of some of the customers. ... They talked to them (for) more than one hour, two hours, and they arrested some of them. So it was obviously surprising for me, my staff, for everyone," he said.

Eleven British Muslims have been charged with conspiracy to murder over the suspected plot to blow up airliners.

Four people are accused of lesser offences and five others are still being questioned but have not been charged.


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