by editor | 20th December 2010 11:17 am
Men aged between 17 and 28 detained on suspicion of commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism
Police arrested 12 men in four separate raids around England this morning in what was described as a major national counter-terrorism operation.
The men, aged between 17 and 28, were held in Birmingham, Cardiff, London and Stoke-on-Trent on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism in the UK, police said.
Searches of properties in the four locations are taking place.
The raids were launched “to take action in order to ensure public safety”, the country’s leading anti-terrorism officer, Assistant Commissioner John Yates, of the Metropolitan police, said.
The home secretary, Theresa May, was briefed on the raids before they happened, the Home Office confirmed.
“This is a large scale, pre-planned and intelligence-led operation involving several forces,” Yates said. “The operation is in its early stages, so we are unable to go into detail at this time about the suspected offences.”
Of those arrested, five – aged 23, 23, 25, 26 and 28 – are from Cardiff, while three, aged 17, 20 and 28, are from London.
Four of the men – two 26-year-olds, a 19-year-old and a 25-year-old – are from Stoke. All 12 were arrested under the 2000 Terrorism Act.
“The suspects were detained by unarmed officers at approximately 5am,” West Midlands police said.
“All were arrested at or near their home addresses, with the exception of one suspect, from Stoke, who was at a domestic property in Birmingham.
“Searches are now being conducted at the home addresses, plus the address in Birmingham and another residence in London.”
The suspects are being held at police stations in central London, the north-west and the West Midlands, police said.
The arrests were co-ordinated by the West Midlands counter-terrorism unit but also involved the Metropolitan police’s counter-terrorism command, South Wales police and Staffordshire police.
The South Wales and Staffordshire forces said they had no further details about the operation to give.
The government’s assessment of the risk of a terrorist attack in the UK remains at “severe” – the second-highest level, meaning an incident is seen as highly likely.
In October, the US state department issued a travel alert for Europe, saying groups linked to al-Qaida could be planning attacks.
This followed speculation that al-Qaida was planning a “commando-style” attack similar to the 2008 Mumbai massacre, in which 166 people were killed.
At the same time, the Foreign Office listed both France and Germany as facing a high threat of terrorism, raising its previous classification of a general threat.
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