Eight suspected international terrorists were detained yesterday under internment powers introduced recently by the Home Secretary.
Immigration officers made a series of raids in London, Luton and the West Midlands.
Security sources said most of the men were North African political dissidents who could not be deported because they would face torture or capital punishment in their countries. They were not believed to include any high-profile Muslim clerics based in Britain, and are thought to have been taken to high-security prisons – Belmarsh in south-east London and Woodhill in Milton Keynes.
They are being held under the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act, which allows David Blunkett to detain suspects without trial.
John Wadham, who runs the civil rights group Liberty, said the detentions were "utterly unjust" and pledged to challenge the legislation in the courts.
A Moroccan aged 28 was taken by police from his 14th-floor flat in Highgate, Birmingham, shortly before 2pm. West Midlands Police also arrested a man in the Aston area of the city. Bedfordshire Police confirmed that two men had been detained at two addresses in Luton. The remaining four arrests were made in London.
The Muslim cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed, criticised for inflammatory comments over the 11 September attacks, said neither he nor the London cleric Abu Qatada, alleged to be Osama bin Laden's European ambassador, were detained.
Mr Blunkett, who is believed to have shortened the suspect list because he was unhappy with some of the evidence, refused to disclose names.Reuse content