Police: Al Qaeda at large in UK

Published: Monday, January 20, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 20, 2003 at 12:49 a.m.

LONDON, England- Britain's police chief has warned several terrorists linked to al-Qaeda are operating in the UK and more arrests are expected.

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Police officer Stephen Oake was killed in an anti-terror raid.

The Associated Press

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens said that al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and his associates have acted "very cleverly" in tapping into existing networks in Britain.

"There's still a large number of people we're watching, there's still a number of people who still have yet to be arrested," Stevens said in an interview on Sky News television.

"We know that there's certain links with al-Qaeda and, of course, the link in with North Africa is proven with other groups as well."

Police have arrested a number of people under Britain's anti-terrorism legislation in recent weeks.

Four North African men were charged on January 13 with chemical weapons and terrorism offenses in relation to the find of the deadly poison ricin in London on January 5.

Derived from the castor bean plant, ricin is one of the world's deadliest toxins and has been linked in the past to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda terror network and Iraq.

In a second raid in the northern England city of Manchester on January 15 that police said was linked to the ricin discovery in London, three North African men were arrested.

One of those, Kamel Bourgass, 27, appeared in court on Friday, charged with the murder of a police officer who was stabbed during the raid.

Stevens said that police did not know whether weapons of mass destruction were falling in to the hands of terrorists in Britain from rogue states.

"We know these people are quite prepared to give their lives, they are extremely ruthless and they are prepared to use weapons which perhaps people who have been involved in domestic terrorism have not been prepared to use, so therefore there is a need for us to up our game and we are doing that," he said.

The stabbing death of detective constable Stephen Oake, 40, in the Manchester sweep raised questions about how well British police are equipped to deal with terror suspects: the arrested men had not been restrained and some of the police were unarmed and wore no body armour.

British police usually don't carry guns, though in cities they sometimes wear protective clothing.

Stevens said Sunday police and security services had the best information on the network of terrorists they have ever had and stressed they were "on top of" the situation.

He said the time had not yet arrived where there was a need to arm all police officers on the street.

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