British police arrest 5 in terror inquiry involving France, Belgium | world | Hindustan Times
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British police arrest 5 in terror inquiry involving France, Belgium

British police said they had arrested five people on suspicion of preparing acts of terrorism as part of an investigation which had involved Belgian and French authorities, to address any threat to Britain after the Paris and Brussels attacks.

world Updated: Apr 15, 2016 23:44 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Police officers arrive aboard a vehicle at Brussels courthouse on April 13, 2016, before the hearing of top Paris attacks suspect Mohamed Abrini.
Police officers arrive aboard a vehicle at Brussels courthouse on April 13, 2016, before the hearing of top Paris attacks suspect Mohamed Abrini. (AFP)

British police said they had arrested five people on suspicion of preparing acts of terrorism as part of an investigation which had involved Belgian and French authorities, to address any threat to Britain after the Paris and Brussels attacks.

Three men and a woman were detained in Birmingham, central England, on Thursday and another man was held at London’s Gatwick Airport in the early hours of Friday.

The four men, aged 40, 59 and two aged 26, and the 29-year-old woman are now being questioned by counter-terrorism detectives and police are also searching several properties in Birmingham.

Police declined to give further details about links between the arrests and the suicide bombings in Brussels which killed 32 people last month or November’s attacks in Paris which left 130 people dead.

Chief constable Marcus Beale from West Midlands Police said there was no information to suggest an attack in Britain was being planned.

He added in a statement: “This action forms part of an extensive investigation by West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit, together with the wider counter-terrorism network, (domestic spy agency) MI5 and international partners including Belgian and French authorities to address any associated threat to the UK following the attacks in Europe.”

British media have reported that Belgian Mohamed Abrini, suspected of involvement in the Islamic State attacks in Brussels, had travelled to Birmingham last year and taken photos of a soccer stadium.

Abrini, who investigators say has confessed to depositing a bomb at Brussels airport, is also wanted in connection with the Paris attacks.

Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected planner of the Paris attacks who was killed by French police late last year, is reported by British newspapers to have visited Birmingham last October and had photographs of places in the city on his smartphone.

Asked about Abaaoud in parliament last month, home secretary Theresa May said: “This is obviously an ongoing investigation, and we are working very closely with the Belgian authorities to ascertain as much information as possible about the individuals involved.”

Five people from Birmingham have been arrested on suspicion of being involved in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism as part of a wider investigation related to the recent attacks in Brussels and Paris.

West Midlands police said four people – three men aged 26, 40 and 59 and a 29-year-old woman – were arrested in Birmingham on Thursday night and a 26-year-old man was arrested at Gatwick Airport in the early hours of Friday.

Assistant chief constable Marcus Beale, who leads counter-terrorism efforts for West Midlands, said: “This action forms part of an extensive investigation by West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit, together with the wider counter-terrorism network, MI5 and international partners including Belgian and French authorities to address any associated threat to the UK following the attacks in Europe.”

He added: “The arrests were pre-planned and intelligence-led. There was no risk to the public at any time and there is no information to suggest an attack in the UK was being planned.”

All five people are being held in West Midlands, where they are being questioned.

Police said they are searching a number of properties in the city as part of the investigation.