Soccer Security Tightened After British Terror Bust

Police on Tuesday questioned 10 people arrested in anti-terrorist raids in north and central England, but refused to comment on media reports that the arrests thwarted a suicide attack on targets including the Manchester United (search) soccer stadium.

Manchester United tightened security for Tuesday night's match against Charlton Athletic (search), and urged fans to arrive early to be sure of being seated for the start. They were also told not to bring bags to the game. The sold-out game ended without incident, with a 2-0 Manchester United victory.

Nine men and one woman, of North African and Iraqi Kurdish origin, were picked up Monday on suspicion of involvement "in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism." Seven were arrested in Manchester, northwest England, and the others elsewhere in the English north and Midlands.

Police have not given any details about the charges, but several British newspapers, citing anonymous sources, published reports Tuesday claiming the suspects had planned a bomb attack. The reports cited targets including shopping malls and stadiums in northern England.

Police did not say whether any explosives had been seized in the operation, which involved 400 officers from five forces, including the anti-terrorist branch of London's Metropolitan Police (search).

The Sun, citing "a police source," claimed there was a suicide bomb plot directed at Old Trafford, the 67,000-seat home of the Manchester United, the world's richest sports franchise.

The Manchester Evening News, citing no source, said "tickets for the sell-out Premier League clash at Old Trafford (Saturday afternoon against Liverpool) are understood to have been recovered" during the raids.

Police would not comment on those reports.

"As with any counter terrorist operation we will not confirm or deny any targets," said Dave Whatton, assistant chief constable of Greater Manchester Police.

Manchester United spokesman Phil Townsend said the team had received no warning from police and had only been in routine discussions with police. He did not comment on the Manchester United announcement about tighter security.

The Daily Express also named the City of Manchester stadium, home of Manchester City soccer club, as a possible target.

The Independent said its sources had "suggested those arrested may have been involved only in support activity." And the Guardian said its counter-terrorist sources had no indication that a bomb plot had been foiled. It suggested the detainees might have been linked to "activities abroad."

Graham Hopkins, 62, an architectural engineer at Old Trafford, said he noticed heightened security precautions Tuesday.

"I have been checked twice on my way in whereas normally I would not be checked at all," Hopkins said.

Rob Andrews, 45, who came to buy tickets for Tuesday night's game, said the reports wouldn't dissuade him from going.

"There are stories like this in the papers all the time and if you worry about it too much you'll never do anything at all," Andrew said. "The security here is fantastic. I'm not worried about coming to the game and if I was I certainly wouldn't bring my kids."

Last month, police arrested nine men and seized more than a half ton of potentially explosive fertilizer in anti-terrorist raids in London and the surrounding area. Six of the men have been charged with explosives or terrorism offenses.

The seizure of the ammonium nitrate fertilizer -- a component of many bomb attacks, including the October 2002 explosions that killed 202 people on the Indonesian island of Bali -- spurred intense media speculation about a plot to bomb civilian targets in Britain. Police have released no details of the case.

One of the 10 people arrested on the terrorism charge Monday was picked up when police raided a home in the town of Coventry. The raid also netted six other Kurdish men on immigration charges. Another man who showed up at the house Tuesday morning also was arrested on immigration charges.

A neighbor, 68-year-old Pat Merry, saw the raid and said police had arrested people there twice before in the last two years

"I got woken up at 4 a.m. to a few shouts and couple of bangs," he said. "I looked out of my window and saw more than 20 riot police and three wagons. My immediate reaction was that they were lifting illegal immigrants again because it's happened before," Merry said.