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Fear of biological warfare - the poisonous substance ricin was found in the hands of 7 suspects in London

The substance - ricin - was found in the apartment of one of the detainees in the north of the city; The material is also found in caves in Afghanistan

Avi Blizovsky


The British police arrested seven people in London after discovering in their possession inhibitions of a highly toxic substance - ricin.

The arrests were made in the early hours of Sunday morning. Six men and one woman were arrested in north and east London by counter-terrorism officers. The six men, in their 20s and 30s, remained in custody and are being questioned. The woman was released. The arrests followed a combined operation by the Counter-Terrorism Division, the special force of the City of London Police and the Security Service. He was executed thanks to intelligence information received by the police.

A quantity of the toxic substance and suspicious equipment were found in one of the detainees' apartments, in the Wood Green neighborhood in North London. The poison ricin, which is extracted from the chicory tree, is considered a substance used in biological warfare. The threat it poses is defined in the UK as "moderate". Producing a small amount of the substance is quite simple, however to turn it into a biological warfare agent it must be injected or caused to enter the victim's digestive tract.

According to previously published reports, large quantities of the substance were found in caves in Afghanistan. British Prime Minister Tony Blair said in London that "the arrests show that the danger is present and real." No connection between the detainees and terrorist organizations has yet been established.
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Scotland Yard's counter-terrorism unit is investigating a suspected chemical-biological attack attempt, after remnants of a deadly ricin-type poison were discovered in London earlier this week. Six suspects of North African descent, in their twenties and thirties, were arrested on Sunday by officers from the London Metropolitan Police's counter-terrorism unit, at addresses in north London and the east of the city. According to the police, dangerous equipment and materials, including traces of ricin poison, were found in an apartment above a store in the Wood Green neighborhood in the north of the city, and one of the suspects was arrested there. Another woman who was arrested in recent days was released after a short investigation.

Ricin is a deadly poison against which no vaccine has yet been developed. The investigation directions of the security services focus on the possibility that this is a dormant cell connected to al-Qaeda, or a cell connected to Iraq. At this point, no possibility has been ruled out. The investigators suspect a connection to the al-Qaeda organization, since large quantities of the poison were discovered in hiding places of Osama bin Laden's organization in caves in Afghanistan.

The British police put a complete blackout on the investigation of the incident, and the details released yesterday were partial. But the British media point out that the timing of the publication of the arrest of the suspects is not accidental, and may have been intended to assist in the attack of softening public opinion towards the possibility of an attack in Iraq. At the same time, the emergency services in Great Britain increased their preparedness, and in recent weeks the frequency and scope of exercises has been increased for the possibility of an attack on a mass scale. In Britain, however, there are fears that the rescue services are not sufficiently prepared to handle a large-scale attack such as the September 11 attacks, and that there is a lack of skilled teams and equipment that will function under the conditions of an unconventional threat.

The state medical service was put on high alert, fearing that it would have to treat victims exposed to the poison. However, so far no person has been reported to have complained of exposure to the deadly poison.

Placing the service on alert indicates the degree of concern and seriousness with which the new threat is taken. According to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Tony Blair, the revelation of the link and the remains of the poison in the hiding apartment indicate the extent of the risk inherent in international terrorism. According to him, "the arrests indicate that the danger exists and is real, and its potential is enormous."

The amounts of ricin poison that were uncovered were minimal, according to initial reports, and probably were not intended or could not be used to make a chemical or other unconventional bomb. Among other things, the researchers are checking whether there was an intention to spread the poison on the doors of trains and elevators or in places where there are many people who may come into contact with the substance. The security services in the UK credit themselves with an operational achievement, since it is about the detection of what is known as a "targeted threat".

The arrests were made after the London authorities received intelligence from reliable sources, following which it was decided to carry out an arrest operation in which the police and the British security service, MA-5, took part.

According to police sources, the discovery of the cell is "the most significant disclosure in the field of combating terrorism in the United Kingdom since the September 11 attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania." Following the attacks, many arrests were made all over the world, including in Britain.

Blair's spokesman said that at this stage it is not clear what the suspects intended to do with the poison. Also, we will now examine how the poison cicin got into Britain, as well as how it was produced, since it can be produced amateurishly.

In a joint statement from the London Police and the Health Services in Great Britain, it was stated that "the police investigation continues. At the same time, careful laboratory tests are carried out on the place where the remains of the poison were exposed. Our message to the public is 'warning, not panic'. The public must maintain high vigilance."

The revelation of the arrest of the suspects squad came after security officials in the UK warned of the possibility of a mass terrorist attack, including the possibility of hitting the London Underground, where more than 3 million people travel every day.

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