Dozens of people who were lodging at an East Sussex school when it was raided by anti-terrorist officers are living at a four-star hotel in Brighton at taxpayers' expense.
Twenty-five people, from five different families, are staying at the Thistle Hotel, where rooms start at £110 a night, rising to £170 for a double and £360 for a deluxe suite. The cost, which is being met by the Metropolitan Police, is already estimated to be approaching £10,000.
The families, who everyone accepts are innocents caught up in the police operation through no fault of their own, have been told that the search of the Jameah Islamiyah school, near Tunbridge Wells, will last for at least a fortnight, taking the final bill to at least £12,000.
Those staying at the hotel have swapped the allegedly ramshackle interior of the Gothic-style school for a seafront hotel with bright, airy rooms boasting modern furniture, large en-suite bathrooms and satellite television. A swimming pool, sauna, sunbeds, beauty treatment rooms and a sea-view restaurant are all available for their use.
However, as they left the hotel on their way to Friday prayers last week, they cut gloomy, bewildered figures.
"It was either stay here or live on the street," sighed one man, emerging from what the hotel describes as "its spectacular atrium lobby". Others said they were still "shell-shocked" at being caught up in an anti-terror operation.
The group, comprising at least four babies and grandparents, said they had been lodging at the school in the village of Mark Cross when, at 6am on September 2, police poured in and started searching the grounds.
"It was very scary," said Vali Adam, who has lived there for seven years.
Some of those living inside Jameah Islamiyah, including Bilal Patel, the owner, had relatives to stay with, but the five families were stranded until the police arranged rooms at the Thistle.
Last week, they were seen tucking into hearty breakfasts of scrambled eggs, hash browns and baked beans in the Promenade restaurant, where evening delicacies include a "pastry box of wild mushrooms and herbs in a cream sauce".
One trio of middle-aged women in hijabs ventured into Brighton's Lanes, peering into the windows of antique shops and fashionable clothes boutiques.
However, the attractions of the Thistle, described by the management as having "a premier position on the promenade" and where some of the delegates to this week's Trades Union Congress conference will stay, generated little enthusiasm. "It's so boring," said one man in his early twenties, who did not wish to be named. "We are 110 per cent the victims. We are confident the police will find nothing."
He said Mr Patel's mobile telephone had remained switched off since the raid and they had been unable to contact him.
"We are simply his tenants," the man added.
"I am renting a room and trying to find work.
"We don't have a clue who comes in and out of the school. People come all the time, but we do not have anything to do with them."
A Scotland Yard spokesman declined to say how much had been spent on accommodating the families, but added: "They will stay as long as the search takes. It is a very detailed investigation." Earlier this year, the Metropolitan Police attracted criticism after The Sunday Telegraph revealed that it was paying for Abul Koyair, 20 and Mohammed Abdul Kahar, 23, the brothers at the centre of the Forest Gate terrorism raid, to stay in a plush London hotel while their home was rebuilt. Police later accepted that the brothers were innocent of all terrorism offences.
However, the cost to the taxpayer of accommodating the brothers and their family for more than two months rose to £60,000.
Police hunt for terror training camp at a faith school in Tunbridge Wells
By Sean Rayment
Anti-terrorist police were last night searching a Muslim school at the centre of an investigation into terrorist training camps being run in Britain.
Officers were scouring the Jameah Islamiyah faith school, set in 54 acres of woodland near Tunbridge Wells, East Sussex, after arresting 14 men in London who are suspected of organising "suicide bomber" training camps.
Anti-terrorist officers were concerned that young men were being prepared to launch attacks on busy parts of London
Security sources told The Sunday Telegraph that the investigation was linked to concerns that young, radicalised Muslim men were being trained to launch suicide attacks in "crowded areas" of the capital and possibly Manchester. Shopping centres and main-line railway stations are believed to have been possible targets, although there is no suggestion that the London Underground, would be attacked.
The operation began on Friday night when around 50 armed police stormed a Chinese Halal restaurant in south-east London. Diners were questioned before several men were arrested. In other raids in the capital, more men were arrested.
Those detained, who are described as of "varied ethnicity", and aged between 17 and 48, were alleged to be involved in the setting up of camps where young people would be "encouraged" to become terrorists.
Early yesterday, scores of police began a search of the dilapidated buildings of the Jameah Islamiyah school, which, according to its Ofsted report, has only nine pupils. No one was arrested. However, Abu Hamza, the former Imam at Finsbury Park mosque, who is serving seven years for inciting murder and racial hatred, had reportedly organised training at the school.
Commenting on the raids, one security source said: "These men were arrested because of their alleged involvement in terrorist related training activities. They are alleged to be involved in the recruitment of terrorists and encouraging others to take part in terrorist related activity."
The developments came hours after Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke, the head of Scotland Yard's anti-terrorist branch, said that his officers are watching thousands of Muslims suspected of being involved in terrorism. Asked how many suspects police were monitoring, Mr Clarke said: "The numbers of people who we have to be interested in are into the thousands." Patrick Mercer, the shadow spokesman for homeland security, yesterday described the operation as a "big success". He added: "I hope this makes the Government realise that the whole country is now facing a threat from Islamist terrorists and not just London."