Eight Terrorism Suspects Seized
British police arrested eight suspected Islamic terrorists Thursday during two raids in the industrial city of Derby in central England, authorities said.
Police described the men as Middle Easterners in their 20s and said they were arrested at 5 a.m. under terrorism laws. A large contingent of officers carried out the raids on two apartments, one located above an Islamic bookstore.
Authorities disclosed little about the operation. They refused to discuss reports from witnesses that the suspects were Kurdish or Iraqi.
“We are living in difficult times, and we owe it to everyone to carry out this operation with sensitivity,” said Det. Chief Supt. David Gee of the Derbyshire Police.
“For operational reasons, we cannot discuss details of the arrest, and I would like to reassure everyone that the safety of all members of the community is our main concern,” he said.
Police said searches of the two residences did not turn up any toxic materials, a concern ever since January, when police in London dismantled a lab that was suspected of producing the deadly poison ricin.
The suspects in the ricin case were part of an Algerian-dominated network active in France and Britain that allegedly underwent chemical and biological warfare training at Al Qaeda camps in Chechnya.
An alleged leader of that network, a Jordanian fugitive named Abu Musab Zarqawi, has operated in the Kurdish-controlled area of northern Iraq, according to European and U.S. officials. And the men arrested Thursday in Derby are suspected of having connections to Islamic terrorist groups operating in that area of Iraq, an official said.
Police throughout Europe are on heightened anti-terrorist alert because of fears that the war in Iraq would bring retaliatory attacks from Al Qaeda, freelance Islamic terrorists or the Iraqi regime.
The suspects captured Thursday are believed to be Islamic extremists, the official said.
Four of the men moved into a small apartment above the Iqra bookstore in a multicultural neighborhood of Derby only a few weeks ago, according to their landlord.
“We don’t know much about them, and people definitely didn’t suspect that they may have been terrorists,” said the landlord, Mohammed Razaq.
The operation was carried out with the assistance of the Metropolitan Police, an elite force with specialized anti-terrorist units.
Times staff writer Janet Stobart contributed to this report.