UK police arrest 7 in anti-terror operation

Associated Press
Police guard a house in Asquith Rd, Ward End, Birmingham, England  following the arrest of six men in Birmingham as part of a large intelligence-led counter-terrorism operation Monday Sept.  19, 2011. The men were detained at or near their homes overnight on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism in Britain. A spokeswoman for West Midlands Police said the men, aged between 25 and 32, were taken into custody by unarmed officers in the Moseley, Sparkbrook, Sparkhill, Ward End and Balsall Heath areas of Birmingham. (AP Photo/David Jones/PA)
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Police guard a house in Asquith Rd, Ward End, Birmingham, England following the arrest of six men in …

LONDON (AP) — British police arrested a group of suspected Islamic extremists on Monday in what officials called one of the most significant counter-terror operations of the year.

Officers were also carrying out raids on more than a dozen homes and businesses in the central England city of Birmingham as part of the intelligence-led operation.

Although the plot was in its early stages and targets weren't immediately known, British security officials said the threat appeared significant and involved Islamic extremists. Authorities said it didn't appear that fall political conferences by Britain's main parties were the intended target.

West Midlands assistant police chief Marcus Beale said the suspects were arrested in or near their homes by unarmed police officers as part of a "large, pre-planned, intelligence-led counter terrorism operation."

Six men were arrested overnight and were being held on suspicion of the "commission, preparation or instigation" of an act of terrorism in Britain.

A woman was also arrested Monday morning for failing to disclose information. The suspects are aged between 22 and 32. All were described as being British residents, and police would not give any details about nationalities or ethnicity.

Beale said police were searching 14 properties and had removed computer equipment.

Britain's national terrorist threat level remained at "substantial" Monday.

"As more details emerge of this plot, the threat level may be reassessed," according to a British government official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of his work and the ongoing investigation.

Britain lowered its assessment of a terrorist attack from "severe" to "substantial" in July. The current threat level means risk of an attack is a "strong possibility."

There are five levels of threat, from low, meaning an attack is unlikely, to critical, meaning an attack is imminent. "Substantial" is the middle level.

The threat level was last at critical in June 2007, following an attack on Glasgow Airport and failed car bombings in central London.

Last year, British authorities arrested 12 suspects in a large-scale terror attack aimed at attacking British landmarks and public spaces.

At least five of the men were of Bangladeshi origin. Some of their cases are still pending.

Europe has been the target of numerous terror plots by Islamist militants.

The deadliest was the 2004 Madrid train bombings, when shrapnel-filled bombs exploded, killing 191 people and wounding about 1,800.

In 2005, suicide bombers killed 52 rush-hour commuters in London aboard three subway trains and a bus. In 2006, U.S. and British intelligence officials thwarted one of the largest plots yet, a plan to blow up nearly a dozen trans-Atlantic airliners.

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