LONDON - Anti-terrorism police detained seven people in early morning raids in four cities in England and Scotland yesterday in an operation that officials linked to recent arrests in Britain of North Africans charged with plotting attacks with the deadly toxin ricin.
In Germany, police raided six houses in the western towns of Munster and Minden and arrested three people in connection with the Hamburg cell involved in the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington.
Two men were arrested in London, one in Manchester, two men in Edinburgh, Scotland, and a man and a woman in Glasgow.
Police gave no details of their ages or nationalities, saying they could not comment because "this operation is connected to another matter which is presently active."
Officers, mindful of the stabbing death of a police detective during an anti-terror raid in Manchester last month, wore full body armor as they broke into the buildings where the arrests were made.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell referred to the killing of the officer, Detective Constable Stephen Oake, in his presentation Wednesday before the United Nations Security Council in New York. Powell said the raid in which Oake was killed had unearthed a cell of "North African extremists" in Europe with links to a terror network headed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a collaborator of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida.
Forensic officers were dressed yesterday in white protective overalls but later took them off when it appeared there was no danger of chemical contamination.
Police said all the suspects were being taken to Scotland for questioning "at a secure location." The Terrorism Act under which they were taken into custody entitles the police to hold them for up to a week without having to make any formal charge.
Seeking to reassure neighborhood residents that they faced no immediate danger, Tom Wood, deputy chief constable of Lothian and Borders Police in Scotland, said: "Although searches of the addresses are continuing, it is important to stress that there has been no discovery of dangerous substances at this time." He said he expected the searches to continue for two days.
German police said two of the three suspects arrested in Munster and Minden, whom they did not identify, were working to build a cell that may have been planning attacks in Germany. The third was accused of supporting the cell.
According to a written statement signed by Frauke-Katrin Scheuten, spokeswoman for the German general prosecutor's office, "there are indications that the members of this group have considered attacks at the end of 2001/beginning of 2002 in Germany, including possibly an attack on a U.S. facility in greater Frankfurt on Main, among other possibilities."
According to the statement, two Islamic centers in Munster and Minden were searched as well as four private homes. Prosecutors said a larger group of people was being investigated.
The arrested men were said to have executive positions within the cultural centers.