LONDON – Detectives searched an Islamic school and addresses across London on Sunday following raids to round up a gang alleged to have run terrorist training camps in Britain, police said.
A three-mile exclusion zone was set up around the school, a former convent near Crowborough, 40 miles south of London, as officers examined the site.
Police arrested 14 people late Friday and early Saturday in raids at a Chinese restaurant and locations across London in an operation targeting a ring suspected of training and recruiting people for terror attacks.
Two other people were arrested Friday in an unrelated terrorist operation in the northern city of Manchester, police said.
Government officials said the London arrests were in connection with the alleged recruitment and radicalization of young British Muslims, but did not indicate what had triggered the arrests.
The 14 men, aged between 17 and 48, were being questioned at a central London police on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism, police said.
"Searches are being carried out at the school site and at locations across London. The suspects remain in custody," a police spokesman said on Sunday, on condition of anonymity, in line with policy.
Charles Hendry, a lawmaker representing the area where the school is located, said the jailed radical cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri had previously visited the school with a group of followers. Al-Masri is serving a seven-year prison sentence for inciting his followers to kill non-Muslims.
Britain's The Sunday Times newspaper reported that among the properties raided by police was the London home of al-Masri's former spokesman, Abu Abdullah. Officers declined to confirm the precise locations of their searches.
Lawmakers and police have discussed tackling problems of homegrown extremism among Britain's Muslim communities since last year's suicide bombings on London's transit network, carried out by three Britons of Pakistani descent and a Jamaican immigrant who grew up in England.
Peter Clarke, head of London's Metropolitan Police anti-terrorist unit, said Friday law enforcement officials were attempting to track thousands of Britons who may be involved in planning or supporting terrorism.
Officers have in past two weeks charged 15 suspects with terrorism-related offenses over an alleged plot to bomb as many as 10 trans-Atlantic jets, following the arrests Aug. 9-10 of 25 people.
Police said the latest arrests were not linked to that plot, or to the July 2005 London attacks, which killed 52 commuters and the bombers.