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Seven quizzed after UK mosque raid

Abu Hamza
Cleric Abu Hamza said the arrested men were security guards employed to stop people dropping litter.

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LONDON, England -- Anti-terror police continued to question seven men arrested in a raid on a London mosque linked to a number of key terror suspects.

Scotland Yard discovered what police described as a "mini-arsenal" -- a stun gun, an imitation weapon which fires blanks and a CS gas canister -- during a search of the North London Central Mosque in Finsbury Park.

Large numbers of passports, identity cards and credit cards were also found.

Six north Africans, aged 23 to 48, and a 22-year-old eastern European were being held under the Terrorism Act 2000 on Tuesday as the documents and computers taken from the mosque were analysed.

The mosque has attracted a number of terror suspects in the past, including "shoe-bomber" Richard Reid, who faces life imprisonment next week when he is sentenced for trying to blow up a Miami-bound jet, and Frenchman Zacharias Moussaoui, the alleged 20th hijacker on September 11, 2001.

The police operation -- codenamed Mermant -- saw around 150 officers in body armour using battering rams to enter the building at 2 a.m. (0200 GMT) on Monday.

Senior officers said they were looking for specific individuals and that the raid was linked to the discovery of the deadly poison ricin at a flat in nearby Wood Green, north London, on January 5. No chemical substances were found at the mosque.

The radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza, who is based at the mosque, condemned the raid and accused the police and government of adopting "Rambo-style" tactics. (Profile)

He said the seven men arrested were security guards who looked out for people dropping litter outside the mosque.

Hamza claimed the operation, involving armed police, was in retaliation for the murder of Detective Constable Stephen Oake in Manchester last week and that it was part of a government-backed "war" on Islam.

Egyptian-born Hamza, 45, who says he lost a hand and an eye fighting Soviet forces in Afghanistan, told the UK's Press Association: "You cannot find a reason for this kind of Rambo-like way of attacking the mosque -- we heard there were 150 police and two helicopters. This was a residential community.

Police remove items found during their raid early on Monday.
Police remove items found during their raid early on Monday.

"I was anticipating the raid, it serves a multiple purpose, it serves (UK Prime Minister Tony) Blair and the police. This is the heartland of Algerian people in London and it is Blair giving out a message to America.

"What can people have in a mosque? I think it was a provocative act. It was silly and illogical. When did you last hear of a church being raided when someone has been arrested? These people do not have principles."

Blair's official spokesman said: "The police have the full support of the government in taking whatever action they feel they need to take in pursuit of their investigations."

Mohammed Sekkoum, of the Algerian Refugee Council, who stopped attending the mosque because he objected to Hamza's methods, said it was a "mistake" to trespass in a Muslim place of worship.

More than 200 people have been arrested in Britain under anti-terror legislation since September 11, 2001, with several dozen currently awaiting trial. Most are north Africans, with the majority of those coming from Algeria.


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