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Monday, December 20, 2010

UK arrests 12 Pakistanis in suspected terror plot

LONDON, Dec 20 : British counter-terror police arrested 12 men early Monday in a "large-scale, pre-planned, intelligence-led" operation. The suspects, aged from 17 to 28, were arrested in London, Cardiff in Wales and Stoke in central England.

They are all of Pakistani descent, a security source who did not want to be identified told CNN. Britain's domestic intelligence service, known as MI5, led the operation, the source said.

The suspects were not planning a "Mumbai-style" attack, where gunmen sprayed bullets at crowded public places in India, and there is no known link to a suicide bombing in Sweden earlier this month, according to the source.

The arrests were "necessary" in order to "ensure public safety," Assistant Metropolitan Police Commissioner John Yates said. He did not say what the suspected target was, but said they were arrested on suspicion of "preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism in the UK." The counter-terror officers who made the arrests were not armed, police said.

Eleven of the 12 men were arrested at their homes, while the final one was detained at a home in Birmingham. The properties are now being searched. London saw a large-scale terror attack on July 7, 2005, which left 52 people plus four home-grown suicide bombers dead. A second attempted attack failed two weeks later. Sky News reported that the group was suspected of planning a bombing campaign in the run up to Christmas. It reported that the suspects had been under surveillance for weeks.

Counterterrorism officials have been tracking threats to the US and Europe from Al-Qaeda and affiliated groups during the holiday season, but officials said last week they had seen no evidence of specific plots aimed at the US.

Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner John Yates, national lead for counter-terrorism policing, said it was a "large-scale, pre-planned, intelligence-led" operation involving several forces.

The BBC said counter-terrorism sources had described the operation as significant and it was related to an investigation into Al-Qaeda-inspired terrorism."The suspects are believed to have been involved in a plot against targets in the UK," he said. "This is not believed to have been a potential plot of a Mumbai-style attack, but a plot involving explosives or bombs."

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