London police arrest seventh poison suspect
By Mark Huband, Krishna Guha and Jimmy Burns
Published: January 8 2003 20:00 | Last Updated: January 8 2003 20:00

Anti-terrorist police in London have arrested a seventh suspect, following the seizure of material which showed traces of ricin poison which they believe may have been intended for use in a terrorist attack.

A 33-year-old man was arrested in north London on Tuesday and is being held at a central London police station under the Terrorism Act, police said on Wednesday.

Six men and a woman, all of North African origin and believed to be Algerian, were arrested on Sunday at three locations in north and east London. The woman was later released without charge.

The arrests followed the discovery of ricin traces on equipment in a flat on Wood Green High Street.

The arrests are part of a wider investigation into alleged plots against the UK and targets in Europe.

"They could well have been planning to use ricin outside the UK. These groups are operating transnationally, and we shouldn't get into the mindset of thinking that just beacuse they were in London they were going to attack in London," said a Whitehall official.

Security officers are still looking for other people who may be linked to those already detained, and are also concerned that ricin which may have been produced in the London flat has been hidden elsewhere.

Government officials have sought to play down the prospect of an attack, despite the admission by security officials that more people linked to the alleged plot may still be at large.

A government spokesman said the arrests "essentially prove everything we have been saying in recent weeks" about the need to confront terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. But he said this was a "generalised threat" and not a "specific threat" relating to this week's arrests.

The arrests were the result of extensive intelligence gathering, including sharing with other European countries. French intelligence gathered on Algerian Islamic fundamentalists has played a key role in the tracing of terrorists across Europe, security sources said yesterday.

The public on Wednesday appeared to be heeding government pleas not to overeact to the latest terrorist scare with as yet no emerging evidence that ricin has been used currently against a target.

The telephone helpline NHS Direct had by late on Wednesda afternoon registered only 47 calls from people asking for advice about ricin.