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'Mini-arsenal' find at UK mosque

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Police stand guard outside the mosque on Monday.

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LONDON, England -- British anti-terror police found a mini-arsenal of weapons when they raided a London mosque linked to a number of key terrorist suspects.

Officers found a stun gun, an imitation weapon which fires blanks and a CS gas canister during a search of the North London Central Mosque in Finsbury Park on Monday.

A large number of passports, identity cards and credit cards were also found.

In all, seven men were arrested and have been questioned under the UK's Terrorism 2000 Act.

A police statement issued earlier on Monday said, "recent counter-terrorist investigations in London and elsewhere has uncovered links between the premises and suspected terrorist activity."

Police do not suspect that ricin -- one of the world's deadliest poisons -- or any other harmful chemical substances are in the mosque.

The men held were believed to be "supporting or engaging in terrorist activity from within" the Finsbury Park Mosque.

Police say six of those being held -- aged from 23 years to 48 years -- are north African.

The seventh arrested man is 22 years old and eastern European.

Finsbury Park mosque is the base of well-known radical cleric Abu Hamza. (Profile)

The cleric, who lost a hand while fighting in Afghanistan against the Soviet occupation, has become one of the most controversial Muslim figures in Britain.

He accused British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the police of "Rambo" tactics during the raid, which he said was part of a government-backed "war" on Islam.

Finsbury Park mosque is the base of radical cleric Abu Hamza.
Finsbury Park mosque is the base of radical cleric Abu Hamza.

Police raided the mosque and two adjacent buildings at around 2 a.m. (0200 GMT) on Monday.

Scotland Yard said the operation did not target the mosque, only the suspects who were arrested.

"Police believe that these premises have played a role in the recruitment of suspected terrorists and in supporting their activity both here and abroad," the statement said.

Zacarias Moussaoui -- the only person facing a public U.S. trial in connection with the September 11 attacks -- and Richard Reid, who is accused of trying to blow up a flight with explosives in his shoes, have attended the Finsbury mosque.

Monday's operation is part of an ongoing and extensive investigation by London Metropolitan Police Department's Anti-Terrorist Branch into alleged terrorist activity in London and across the United Kingdom, according to Scotland Yard.

On January 5, seven men were arrested in connection with a raid by British police on two addresses in north and east London where traces of ricin were discovered.

In addition to traces of ricin, equipment that could be used to produce the poison was found in one of the flats.

A Manchester police officer was stabbed to death and four other officers were wounded during a January 14 counter-terrorism raid connected to the ricin investigation.

Three North African suspects were arrested, including Kamel Bourgass, 27, who faces murder and attempted murder charges against the officers.

More than 200 people have been arrested in Britain under anti-terror legislation since September 11, 2001, with several dozen currently awaiting trial. Most are North Africans, with the majority of those coming from Algeria.


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