Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Nine terror raid men handed over

Nine men questioned in connection with a suspected bomb plot have been handed over to the UK Border Agency.

Two more men are still being questioned by the police under the Terrorism Act, while another has already been released into the custody of the Border Agency.

Anti-terror police raided at least 14 properties in Liverpool, Manchester, and Clitheroe, Lancashire, on 8 April.

A lawyer for three of the men said no wrongdoing had been discovered, and they were in Britain legally.

'Public safety'

A Home Office spokesman said: "We are seeking to remove these individuals on grounds of national security.

"The government's highest priority is to protect public safety. Where a foreign national poses a threat to this country we will seek to exclude or to deport, where this is appropriate."

Of the 12 men arrested in the raids, 11 were Pakistani nationals, 10 held student visas and one was from Britain.

The lawyer, Mohammed Ayub, said in a statement: "After 13 days in custody, during which no evidence of any wrongdoing was disclosed, they [his three clients] have now been released without charge.

"Our clients have no criminal history, they were here lawfully on student visas and all were pursuing their studies and working part-time. Our clients are neither extremists nor terrorists."

Security blunder

A Greater Manchester Police spokeswoman said searches were continuing at a property in Cheetham Hill, Manchester.

"These arrests were carried out after a number of UK agencies gathered information that indicated a potential risk to public safety," she said.

"Officers are continuing to review a large amount of information gathered as part of this investigation.

"Investigations of this nature are extremely complex. We remain grateful to the support and cooperation of the communities affected."

The raids in north-west England had to be brought forward following a blunder by the UK's most senior counter-terror officer.

Assistant Commissioner Bob Quick quit his post a day after the operation - after he accidentally revealing operational details to photographers from a document he was carrying.

However, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith told MPs on Monday that the error had not damaged the operation and that the only impact had been that the raids had been brought forward "by a matter of hours".