|Two held after police mount anti-terror raid|
By Stephen Fidler
Published: June 3 2006 03:00 | Last updated: June 3 2006 03:00
More than 200 police raided a house in London's East End yesterday responding to what they said was specific intelligence about a suspected terrorist plot.
A suspect was shot and wounded in the raid on a family home in Forest Gate, an area heavily populated with Asians from the sub-continent.
Over the past year, British security officials have been expressing increasing concern about what they say is an intensifying struggle against Islamist extremists, many of whom appear to have been radicalised in the UK.
According to one official speaking before yesterday's operation, 14 of what the authorities considered to be terrorist plots had come to light since September 11, 2001.
This number included the attacks of July 7 and the failed bombings of July 21. He said nine plots had been thwarted before July 7 and three after July 21.
Two men were arrested yesterday, including the shot man aged 23, on suspicion of being concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism, police said.
The other man was aged 20. Neither was named by police.
Under the act, the men can be held for 14 days for questioning before charges are laid or they are released.
This period was extended to 28 days under a new terrorism act most of which came into force in April, but that aspect of the legislation will not be effective for another two months.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke, head of the anti-terrorist branch at the Metropolitan police, said the operation, which began just before 4am, was based on "very specific intelligence" but he declined to elaborate.
The operation "was de-signed to mitigate any threat to the public either from firearms or from hazardous substances."
Some police were armed and others were wearing suits designed to protect against chemical or biological agents.
MI5, the Security Service, was involved in the operation.
An independent police inquiry was launched into the shooting. The Metropolitan police said that because of the inquiry, it could not comment on the circumstances of the shooting or say whether firearms were found on the premises.
Police said that there were no known links to the July 7 or July 21 episodes nor were they connected to a series of raids last week on premises near Manchester and in the Midlands.
UK police search for chemical bomb
Sat Jun 3, 2006 4:04 PM ET
By Michael Holden and Katherine Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) - British anti-terrorist officers searched a house and two workplaces on Saturday for traces of a possible chemical bomb they fear could be used in an attack in Britain.
The search followed a police raid on the house in the east of the capital a day earlier in which a 23-year-old suspect was shot and wounded.
Behind a wall of plastic sheeting, police scoured the house in an ethnically mixed area of east London for signs of toxins or explosives following a dawn raid at the property on Friday.
Police also carried out further "small searches" at the workplaces of two men detained in the raid that involved more than 250 officers, some dressed in chemical suits.
The suspect shot in Friday's raid was recovering under police guard in hospital on Saturday. The second suspect remained in custody at a high security police station in London.
"What we are looking for is some form of viable chemical device," a police source told Reuters of the search at the house.
"A device that would have a fatal effect on someone standing nearby both from the explosion and from the chemical it contained," the source said, adding that the device being sought was a type of conventional bomb surrounded by toxic material.
If no bomb was found, it was possible the device had been moved, someone else was hiding it, that it had never been built or that intelligence had been wrong, the source said.
Police have said nothing suspicious was found in an initial search of the house.
Police were granted an extension until Wednesday to question the two men, held "on suspicion of commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism," police said in a statement.
Friday's operation, one of the biggest since last July's suicide bombings on the capital's transport network, was prompted by suspicions that the house could have been used for making bombs or chemical weapons.
Police also detained a neighboring family but freed them without charge.
Asan Rehman, a spokesman for the family, told Reuters the two men still in detention were brothers, were Muslims and of Bangladeshi origin. Neighbors described them as friendly and "very religious".
The failure by police to immediately find any evidence of criminal activity sparked anger among the large Muslim population in the Forest Gate area of London, who said they were being deliberately targeted and accused the police of shooting first and asking questions later.
Unnamed security chiefs, quoted in newspapers, said they believed an attack had been imminent, with possible targets including underground trains or pubs crowded with fans watching the soccer World Cup tournament, which starts next week.
London Police Question Brothers After Big Raid
By Mary Jordan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, June 4, 2006; A19
LONDON, June 3 -- British police questioned two brothers and searched their East London home Saturday, a day after police shot one of the men during the country's largest anti-terrorism raid since the bombing attacks last summer on the London public transit system.
Authorities remained tight-lipped about the operation, which involved about 250 officers, including some in chemical-protective suits. Local media reported that police feared that a homemade chemical bomb might have been sneaked out of the house.
Police have not released the suspects' names but said that one was arrested on "suspicion of being concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism." The other man was held on unspecified charges under Britain's Terrorism Act.
Relatives of the brothers issued a statement expressing their "deep shock and anger" at the police operation and insisting that the family was "completely innocent and in no way involved in any terrorist activity." The statement did not include the names of the detained men.
Police issued a statement Friday saying that "very specific" intelligence, perhaps involving "hazardous substances," had led them to believe a terrorist attack was imminent. The raid was conducted about a month before the first anniversary of the July 7, 2005, attack on three London subway trains and a public bus that killed 52 passengers along with four bombers.
But as of Saturday evening, police were largely silent on what, if anything, their search had turned up. The Times of London reported Saturday that the police were searching for a "chemical vest," designed to release deadly chemicals in a suicide attack. The Reuters news agency quoted an unidentified police source as saying they were hunting for a "viable chemical device."
Police, who refused to comment on any news reports, have also given few details of Friday's shooting, except to note that it was being investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission -- standard procedure in any police shooting. Police created a furor last July when they killed Jean Charles de Menezes, a Brazilian electrician shot seven times in the head by officers who mistook him for a terrorism suspect.
Residents of the Forest Gate neighborhood in east London said the raid was another blow to the image of Muslims in London. Many interviewed in the working-class area, where people of Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Indian descent live alongside other Britons in modest row houses, said they supported efforts to root out Islamic radicals but feared police may have shot an innocent man because he was Muslim.
"We're shocked that they shot someone. We're shocked that they found nothing," said Rita Walia, 29, a mother of three. "We don't know what to think."
"If they are calling it a bomb factory, they should have found something by now," said Asif Raja, 22, standing on a corner near the house. "If they do, I will be the first to give them respect. But Muslims are worried because they think, 'The next time it could be me they shoot.' "
Several neighbors said the two brothers were British-born men of Bangladeshi origin and that the older one worked for the British postal service and the other in a local grocery store. Neighbors said the older brother had recently embraced his Muslim religion much more passionately and had switched from Western dress to the traditional shalwar kameez , loose-fitting, knee-length cotton shirts and baggy pants.
They said he also opened a gym in his basement, and young people from the neighborhood came to work out.
"They were family people, working-class people," Raja said. "They were not asking me to strap up and put on a bomb." The police search, he said, "only makes it tougher for Muslims."
June 02, 2006
Scotland Yard statement on London terror raid