Breaking: British police raid restaurant, arrest 14 on terror suspicions

Unrelated to the airplane plot, say authorities. 14 down, several thousand to go.

Threatwatch begins now.

Update: More from the Press Association:

Searches are being carried out at homes in south, east and north London, Scotland Yard said…

“The arrests in south and east London follow many months of surveillance and investigation in a joint operation involving the Anti-Terrorist Branch, Special Branch and the Security Service.”…

Up to 40 officers in riot gear entered the premises which was packed with diners, the report said. A number of arrests were made at the restaurant which was part of the Bridge Hotel, the BBC added.

Update: Here’s a photo of the Bridge Hotel and restaurant. Update: That’s a Chinese restaurant in the photo, but according to this page, there are other eateries inside. One of which is a Persian restaurant.

Very possibly unrelated, but worth noting.

Update: Keep your eye on Sky. They usually lead the pack on stories like this.

Update: New details from the Beeb; it was indeed the Chinese restaurant that was raided. No information about the suspects but the author does note that the food there is halal, which I guess is his invitation to read between the lines:

According to BBC correspondent Keith Doyle the halal Chinese restaurant “was full of people, including children, when around 40 police officers wearing riot gear raided it shortly after ten o’clock.

“Diners were told they were being questioned under the Terrorism Act.

“Each was asked to give their name and address, after which those arrested were taken away in handcuffs.”…

The restaurant’s owner, Madi Blyani, said he had been surprised by the arrival of a large number of police officers.

“It was surprising actually, because plenty of them suddenly came in all together. There were more than 50 or 60 of them,” he said.

“They suddenly came inside because they were suspicious of some of the customers, and they talked to them.

“They talked to them (for) more than one hour, two hours. And they arrested some of them.

I figured they were after the employees. 50-60 cops in riot gear descending on a restaurant on a Friday night to question the customers sounds awfully strange. They’ve been taking heat for busted raids and heavy-handed tactics for the better part of a year, all the way back to the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes last July.

They must have had an awfully good reason to risk another big screw-up in a place as public as this. Maybe time was of the essence. We’ll see.

Update: Mary K has the a.m. updates, including a report that some of the men arrested were wearing Islamic dress. The police also raided an Islamic school for boys aged 11 to 16. Captain Ed tries to reconcile its 54-acre campus with the fact that the school, at last inspection, had … nine students.

Update: Were they using the campus to train/recruit?

The BBC’s security correspondent, Gordon Corera, said the arrests were linked to allegations of “training camps” within the UK for people who want to engage in terrorist acts.

“This involves people suspected of facilitating training activity within the UK which might have allowed others to take part in terrorist activity,” he said.

“Here in the UK it’s more forms of bonding and getting groups together as well as radicalising those taking part. It’s not necessarily military or terrorist training or blowing things up, it’s more training in the sense of groups bonding and working together”.

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Update: The Times of London says the suspects are “thought to be mainly young British Muslims of Pakistani origin.”

Update: There’s no evidence that an attack was imminent, according to police who spoke to the Daily Mail. On the other hand, the suspects might be wanted for more than just recruiting:

[One] security source went further and suggested those allegedly involved may not just have been recruiting and training suspects, but actually plotting an attack. There has been no official confirmation of this.

Update: According to the Independent, these arrests are connected with the arrest of a Pakistani man in Cheetham Hill, Manchester, on August 23.