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3 terror suspects in London court

About three million people a day use London's 'tube' -- the world's oldest undergound mass-transit system
About three million people a day use London's 'tube' -- the world's oldest undergound mass-transit system

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LONDON, England -- Three men are to appear in court on charges reportedly linked to alleged plans to release a chemical gas on the London Underground.

The men, believed to be from north Africa, were arrested last week and remanded in custody after an initial court appearance.

They are due to appear again before Bow Street Magistrates, central London, on Monday under the Terrorism Act 2000.

The case came to light following a report in the Sunday Times newspaper which said that the men were plotting to release poison gas, possibly cyanide, during rush hour on a train in the London Underground, known as "the tube."

It said the three were believed to belong to the North African Front, a terrorist organisation linked to al Qaeda.

But the UK's Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott denied knowledge of any such plan.

He told the BBC on Sunday: "It doesn't appear to be that there is any evidence whatsover there was going to be a gas attack or indeed use of bombs regarding the three people who have been arrested."

He added that the police had no evidence the men possessed bombs or gas.

Rabah Chekat-Bais, 21, Rabah Kadris, in his mid 30s, and Karim Kadouri, 33, all of no fixed abode, have been charged with the "possession of articles for the preparation, instigation and commission of terrorism acts."

Unemployed Chekat-Bais first appeared before Bow Street Magistrates Court on last Monday and Kadris and Kadouri, also both unemployed, appeared in court on Tuesday last week.

Scotland Yard police have refused to officially comment on the Sunday Times' claims, and would not say what the materials allegedly found were. They did say that they had not found any gas or other poisonous substances when they arrested the men, AP said.

A Home Office spokesman told the UK's Press Association that "If the government or police thought it was necessary to give the public a specific warning about any venue, including the Underground, it would do it without hesitation."

A spokeswoman from London Underground would not comment on the Sunday Times report but appealed to passengers to be vigilant.

Sunday Times Assistant Editor Nicholas Rufford told Sky News television the group had been infiltrated by M15, Britain's domestic intelligence service.

He added: "The plan I believe was to bring the ingredients of a gas bomb into the country. As far as I know, as far as I understand, the materials never arrived."

'No link to Blair speech'

Last week Prime Minister Tony Blair urged vigilance to prevent a terrorist attack in the UK. (Full story)

But he said that if he had acted on every piece of raw intelligence during his time as premier, he would have shut down roads, rail links, airports, stations, shopping centres, factories and military installations "on many occasions."

Government sources insisted the case had nothing to do with Blair's warning.

Nor, the sources added, was the case connected to Home Secretary David Blunkett's Home Office warning that al Qaeda might be ready to use "a so-called dirty bomb, or some kind of poison gas."

Earlier this month, Interpol Secretary Ronald Noble warned that al Qaeda operatives were preparing simultaneous attacks in several countries. (Full story)

Seven years ago a sarin nerve-gas attack on the Tokyo subway during rush hour killed 12 people and injured 5,000 others.

The attack by a Japanese religious cult, Aum Shinrikyo, focused world attention on the threat from chemical and biological weapons.

Cyanide can cause death or make people suddenly lose consciousness if it is inhaled or swallowed.

Exposure to high levels of cyanide as a gas, liquid or white powder can cause irritation of the skin, headaches, dizziness, loss of coordination, nausea, vomiting, gasping, increased blood pressure, loss of consciousness and death.

Most people cannot smell cyanide until levels become dangerous, then it can smell like bitter almonds.

Even several years after exposure to low levels of cyanide it is possible to experience birth defects and nerve damage affecting hearing, vision, and muscle coordination.

The London Underground, the world's oldest underground railway, has 275 stations connected by 400 kilometres (250 miles) of track and carries about three million passengers each day.

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