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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Five arrested in Britain under anti-terror laws

LONDON (AFP) - Five men have been arrested in dawn raids in Britain under anti-terrorism laws, including two British Pakistanis.

Two men, aged 25 and 29, were detained in Halifax, West Yorkshire, in northern England, "on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism," London's Metropolitan Police said Tuesday.

The BBC reported that they were thought to be British Pakistanis, being held on suspicion of involvement in facilitating terrorist activities overseas, although police declined to comment.

A further three suspects, two aged 24 and one 32-year-old, were arrested by anti-terror officers who raided four addresses in the city of Manchester, north-west England.

Police from the Met worked with colleagues from West Yorkshire to carry out the Halifax raids at around 6:00 a.m. (0600 GMT).

A Metropolitan Police spokeswoman said the arrests came as part of an "intelligence-led operation" and stressed that the operation was not carried out by armed officers.

The men were arrested at separate houses in Halifax which are now being searched along with two other houses there and a London flat, she added.

They are now in custody and are set to be brought to a police station in London later Thursday.

The Halifax arrests are not being linked to those in Manchester.

Greater Manchester Police said in a statement that their operation was linked to "suspected terrorist support and facilitation."

"At this stage, there is no intelligence of any planned terrorist activity in the UK and the arrests are part of an ongoing investigation," the statement added.

Although further details of the claims against the five have yet to emerge, their arrests dominated the headlines in Britain Tuesday morning as the country remains on high alert against potential terror attacks.

In July 2005, 52 people were killed by four suicide bombers in a series of attacks on London's underground train and bus system.

The alleged perpetrators of an effort to replicate the attacks later that month are currently on trial in London in one of the most eagerly-awaited court cases in recent years.

In November, the head of the MI5 domestic intelligence service, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, warned that there were nearly 30 terror plots under investigation in Britain.

Agents were tracking over 1,600 suspects from 200 groups, most with ties to Al-Qaeda, she added.

Prime Minister Tony Blair has repeatedly denied claims that Britain has become more vulnerable to a terror attack because of his close partnership with the United States in the
Iraq war.

Think-tank Chatham House said in 2005 that the Iraq war gave a "boost" to Al-Qaeda and made Britain especially vulnerable to suicide attacks.
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