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Britain arrests al Qaeda suspect, removes explosives
( 2003-11-28 08:38) (Agencies)

British police arrested on Thursday a 24-year-old man suspected of links to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network and removed explosives from the house in western England where he was seized.

Neither police nor security sources confirmed an alleged link which Sky News said the man had to Richard Reid, a British-born bin Laden follower jailed for life in January for trying to blow up a transatlantic flight with explosives stuffed in his shoes.

"There might possibly be a link but it might be something minor," a security source said.

Officers from Britain's anti-terror branch arrested the British-born man of Asian origin in the town of Gloucester. They later said they had found explosives at the address but did not elaborate.

Earlier, a security source told Reuters that the arrest "could be pretty big in the sense that if we find what we suspect we are looking for, then we have got something big."

The suspect was arrested on "suspicion of involvement in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism." He was taken to a police station in nearby Wiltshire and then to London.

Home Secretary (Interior Minister) David Blunkett said: "It is believed by the security and special branch services that this man has connections with the network of al Qaeda groups."

"We would not have taken these steps if we didn't believe that this individual posed a very real threat to the life and liberty of our country," he told BBC television.

Officers were also searching two addresses in the northern town of Blackburn including an Islamic college, where the suspect was a former student.

A 39-year-old man was also arrested by anti-terror police in the northern city of Manchester, Scotland Yard said. However the source said this arrest was unconnected to the operation in Gloucester.

Britain's most senior police officer Sir John Stevens said last week that London would be on high alert for the foreseeable future after previously warning that an attack on the United Kingdom was almost inevitable.

Earlier this month, security services were moved to a heightened state of alert after they received warnings of a possible attack by bin Laden's al Qaeda group, blamed for the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

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