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Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-12-20

British police said Monday they had arrested 12 men in a series of pre-dawn raids in England and Wales as part of a major counter-terrorist operation.

AFP - British police on Monday arrested 12 men on suspicion of plotting an act of terrorism, in a major operation involving a pre-dawn raids across the country.

The dozen, aged between 17 and 28, were detained "on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism in the UK," police said in a statement.

Britain is on high alert after upgrading its perceived terror threat level earlier this year. The Stockholm bombing, conducted by a man who lived in Britain, has further heightened concerns.

"This is a large-scale, pre-planned and intelligence-led operation involving several forces," said Scotland Yard Assistant Commissioner John Yates, who is in charge of counter-terrorism policing.

"The operation is in its early stages so we are unable to go into detail at this time about the suspected offences. However, I believe it was necessary at this time to take action in order to ensure public safety."

The BBC quoted sources as saying the operation was linked to a probe investigating Al-Qaeda-inspired terrorism.

Four of the men were from Cardiff, four from Stoke-on-Trent, north of Britain's second city Birmingham in the English West Midlands, and three from London.

They were all arrested by unarmed officers at or near their homes at around 5:00 am (0500 GMT), apart from one suspect from Stoke who was detained at a house in Birmingham.

They are being held at police stations in central London, northwest England and the West Midlands.

Police said searches were under way at their homes, the Birmingham address and another residence in London.

Home Secretary Theresa May was fully briefed on the raids before they took place, the Home Office interior ministry confirmed.

The BBC, citing counter-terror sources, said the arrests were not believed to have been over a potential Mumbai-style gun attack, but a plot involving explosives or bombs instead.

They added that the plot was probably not imminent and said some of the suspects were of Bangladeshi origin.

Britain, the former colonial power, had an ethnic Bangladeshi population of 283,000 or 0.5 percent at the last census, conducted in 2001.

Britain's current terror threat level is "severe", the second-highest on a five-level grading.

"This means that a terrorist attack is highly likely," the Home Office says.

The threat level was hiked in January after a six-month spell at "substantial" -- the only time it has dipped below the two highest levels since it was set up in 2006 following the London bombings in July 2005.

Those attacks on three Underground trains and a bus killed 52 people, plus the four suicide bombers, who were all British subjects.

Though they are not thought to be linked, Monday's arrests come shortly after the December 11 Stockholm bombing, Sweden's first ever suicide attack.

The bomber was thought to have been radicalised in Britain, raising concerns about Islamist terrorism emanating from these shores.

Taimour Abdulwahab lived in Luton, north of London, with his wife and three children, after completing a sports psychology degree in the factory town.

That prompted Prime Minister David Cameron to admit that Britain had not done enough to counter domestic Islamic extremism.

Date created : 2010-12-20

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