Seven held in nationwide anti-terror raids

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The Independent Online

Seven people were being held by police and immigration officials today following a massive nationwide anti-terror operation focused on suspected activity in Iraq.

More than 500 police officers and the Immigration Service were involved in early morning raids at 18 different addresses across five force areas.

Properties in Manchester, Merseyside, Middlesbrough, the West Midlands and the London area were being searched with warrants under the Terrorism Act.

Two people were being held under the Terrorism Act and five under the Home Secretary's powers to deport individuals whose presence in the UK is " not conducive to the public good for reasons of national security".

Two other people arrested earlier were released without charge.

Greater Manchester Police's anti-terrorism unit, which led this morning's raids, said the operation was targeted at individuals suspected of " facilitating terrorism abroad".

There was no suggestion that any were suspected of planning an attack in the UK.

Chief constable Michael Todd said the long-running investigation, led by his force and MI5, was into alleged terrorist activity overseas, including the funding of terrorism.

Mr Todd said there was no threat of an attack on this country. Instead, the operation is believed to be focused on terrorist activity in Iraq.

He said: "We are not talking today about a direct threat to the UK. We are talking about the facilitation of terrorism overseas. That could include funding, providing support and encouragement to terrorists.

"This is an intelligence-led operation. We have been gathering intelligence, together with our security service colleagues, for at least a year, looking at the funding and support of terrorist activities overseas."

The Home Office said: "This is part of an extensive and ongoing police investigation led by Greater Manchester Police, involving five forces, into alleged facilitation of terrorist activity abroad.

"The Immigration Act 1971 gives powers to deport individuals, and to detain them pending deportation - the immigration service has detained the five foreign nationals on this basis."

Of the 18 addresses raided, 12 were in Greater Manchester, one in Merseyside, one in Cleveland, three in the West Midlands and one in London.