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Spate of terror swoops in Europe

Gloucester, Nov. 28 (Reuters): British anti-terror police raided a second house in southwest England today as they questioned a suspected would-be suicide bomber whom the government says may be linked to al Qaida.

Police forensic experts entered a flat above a shop in this quiet country town, 145 km west of London, and also carried out a second search of a house just 200 metres away, where explosives were found yesterday.

Italy said today it had smashed a Europe-wide network suspected of recruiting Islamic militants for suicide bombings in Iraq, and that five arrests had been made.

Police in Italy and Germany arrested five north Africans from a wanted list of six, including the suspected ringleader, Abderrazak Mahdjoub — an Algerian believed to have had contacts with those behind the September 11 attacks in the US.

In London, the police continued to question a 24-year-old man arrested during yesterday’s raid. Police, who can hold the suspect for up to seven days under sweeping anti-terror laws passed three years ago, declined comment on the man’s suspected intentions.

But newspapers speculated he may have been planning the country’s first suicide attack on a soft target such as a sports stadium or the royal family.

Home secretary David Blunkett stressed the importance of the raids — part of a broader security operation that included searches in the northern city of Blackburn. “Obviously the use of the Terrorism Act 2000 indicates the extent of the concern of the security and counter-terrorism branch of the metropolitan police,” he said. He said he stood by his comments yesterday, when he said there was reason to believe the suspect “has connections with the network of al Qaida groups”.

For more than a fortnight, Britain has been on its second highest security alert after intelligence reported a planned attack without specifying any target.

Media said the man arrested in Gloucester may have had links with Richard Reid, the so-called shoe bomber jailed for life in the US in January for trying to bring down a transatlantic airliner. Police declined to comment on any links between the two.

The country’s spy chief Eliza Manningham-Buller, foreshadowing last week’s attacks on British targets in Turkey warned in October of a threat lasting for many years.

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