May 24, 2006

British police detain 7 in anti-terrorism raids

By Valentina Za and Talal Malik

MANCHESTER (Reuters) - Hundreds of police officers raided
houses in Britain's biggest cities on Wednesday in a major
crackdown on people suspected of playing a role in terrorism
overseas, primarily in Iraq.

Police said they arrested seven people in Manchester, one
in the area around Liverpool and one in London in early morning
raids on 18 addresses. Around 500 officers took part in the
operation, which also focused on the West Midlands and the
northeastern city of Middlesbrough.

Two of the nine arrested were later released without charge
in what police described as a fluid situation.

"This is a major anti-terrorist operation," chief constable
Michael Todd of Greater Manchester police told reporters.

"Searching addresses under the terrorism act can often take
two, three or more days ... it will take some time to resolve."

Sources told Reuters the operation was designed primarily
to crack down on terrorist activities in Iraq, although police
officers said they could not confirm this.

In London, the Home Office (interior ministry) said it
ordered the arrest of five of the suspects because it deemed
their presence in Britain as "not conducive to the public

Under Britain's tough anti-terror laws, the five will be
eligible for deportation.

The other suspects were arrested under immigration laws.

Police sealed off houses and roads in Manchester, in the
northwest of England, where the raids were carried out.

One local man, an ethnic Pakistani Muslim, ridiculed the
idea that terrorists might be living in the area. "What
terrorists?" he said. "This is just a drama they have done to
annoy the Muslims. They can't be Muslims and be terrorists."


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 on route to the United
States 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.

(Additional reporting by Kate Kelland, Gideon Long and Mike
Holden in London)