Three held in Everglades over suspected terror plot

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Three men of Middle Eastern appearance were detained in the Florida Everglades yesterday after a woman in a Georgia restaurant said she overheard them talking about a terrorist strike on Miami and passed their car licence plate numbers to police.

Three men of Middle Eastern appearance were detained in the Florida Everglades yesterday after a woman in a Georgia restaurant said she overheard them talking about a terrorist strike on Miami and passed their car licence plate numbers to police.

The men, driving in two vehicles, were flagged down on the way to the Miami area after they drove through a toll booth without paying. Their Illinois number plates matched the description given by the woman in the restaurant, who said the men had boasted they would make Americans cry on 13 September just as they had cried on 11 September.

Several hours of searching involving dozens of local and federal police officials and bomb disposal experts using remote-control robots yielded no trace of explosives or other illegal material. A backpack was blasted open after officers spotted wires protruding from it, but it turned out to contain medical supplies.

Officials said later that the men, of Jordanian, Iranian and Pakistani origin, appeared to be medical students on their way to a conference. At least two were American citizens. They continued to be detained late yesterday, but no warrant was issued for their arrest. Officials said they were being "extremely unco-operative".

A 20-mile stretch of the highway known as Alligator Alley was closed and helicopters hovered overhead. Police said they were still investigating, and refused to classify the incident as a false alarm.

¿ Dutch airport police have detained the leader of an extremist Kurdish group with suspected links to al-Qa'ida and were in talks on his extradition yesterday, possibly to the US. The leader of Ansar al-Islam, Mullah Najm al-Din Faraj Ahmad, was arrested at Schiphol Airport on Thursday, on his way to Norway, where he has relations. His group is based in villages in Iraq near the border with Iran.

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