May 24, 2006

British police detain 9 in anti-terrorism raids

LONDON (Reuters) - Around 500 British police officers
raided houses across the country on Wednesday in a major
operation targeting people suspected of planning terrorist
attacks overseas.

They arrested eight people in early morning raids, seven in
Manchester, northern England, and one in Merseyside, the area
around Liverpool in the north west, police said.

They later said they had arrested a ninth person and that
one of the nine had been released.

"An extensive operation targeting individuals suspected of
facilitating terrorism abroad is under way," a police spokesman
in Manchester said, without giving further details.

Police were due to give a news conference in Manchester at
10 a.m. (0900 GMT).

Police can detain terrorism suspects for up to 14 days
before charging them.

Britain has been on high alert since four suicide bombers
killed 52 people in coordinated attacks on London's transport
network on July 7 last year. All four were British Muslims.

Police are also on the alert for Britons they suspect of
planning terrorist attacks abroad.

With a Muslim population of around 1.7 million, many
angered by British foreign policy in the Middle East, Britain
has been cited as a fertile recruiting ground for Islamist

In December 2001, Briton Richard Reid was arrested for
trying to blow up a passenger plane with explosives hidden in
his shoes.

He was sentenced to life in jail in January 2003 after a
trial in which he described himself as an Islamic
fundamentalist working in league with al Qaeda.

In 2003, two British Muslims attacked a bar in Tel Aviv,
killing three Israelis. One of them, Asif Mohammed Hanif, blew
himself up at the scene while the other, Omar Sharif, fled, and
was later found drowned in the sea nearby.

U.S. authorities arrested nine Britons abroad in the wake
of the attacks of September 11, 2001 and imprisoned them at the
Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba.

None of them was ever charged with any offence and all have
since been freed.