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Police arrest 14 men in UK anti-terrorism raids

Written by: Staff
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LONDON, Sept 2 (Reuters) British police said today they had arrested 14 men in a major new anti-terrorism operation in the capital just three weeks after uncovering a suspected plot to bring down U S-bound airliners over the Atlantic.

Officers arrested the men in raids in south and east London on Friday night and early today morning.

''Officers from the Metropolitan Police Service's Anti-Terrorist Branch have arrested 14 men under the Terrorism Act 2000 in a pre-planned, intelligence-led operation,'' London police said in a statement.

The men were arrested on suspicion of ''the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism'', and were being held at a central London police station, police said.

They gave no details of what the men were suspected of doing, but said the operation was not related to the arrests of more than 20 people on Aug 9-10 in connection with an alleged plot by a group of British Muslims to blow up U S-bound airliners using liquid explosives.

Nor were they related to the July 7 attacks last year when four British Islamist suicide bombers killed 52 people in rush-hour attacks on London transport, they said.

The police said the arrests followed many months of surveillance and investigation in a joint operation involving the police anti-terrorist branch and the security service.

Searches were being carried out at houses in south, east and north London, they said.

The BBC said one of the raids was at a south London restaurant where about 40 police officers in riot gear entered premises packed with dinners on Friday night, taking some people away in handcuffs.

The interior ministry's Web site showed that the ''terrorism threat level'' to Britain remained at ''severe'', the second-highest level.

Following the August arrests, it was raised to the highest level ''critical'' and tight restrictions were imposed on airline passengers' luggage.

Eleven British Muslims have been charged with conspiracy to murder and planning acts of terrorism over the suspected plot to blow up airliners over the Atlantic.

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

The head of London police's anti-terrorist branch, Peter Clarke, said in an interview broadcast by the BBC yestrday that police were keeping tabs on thousands of British Muslims who they suspect may be involved in or support terrorism.

REUTERS PDM BS1206

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