Police find weapons in controversial London mosque raid

 

Police in Britain said tonight that they recovered a stun gun, one blank firing imitation firearm and one CS gas canister during the search of a North London mosque early this morning.

Police were continuing to question seven men over suspected terrorism offences following the controversial raid on London Central Mosque in Finsbury Park.

Six north Africans, aged 23 to 48, and a 22-year-old eastern European were being held as detectives analysed computers and documents taken from the mosque.

Scores of officers in body armour used battering rams to enter the building at 2 a.m. They met no resistance.

Senior officers said they were looking for specific individuals and the raid was linked to the discovery of the deadly poison ricin at a flat in nearby Wood Green on January 5th. No chemical substances were found at the mosque today.

The radical Muslim cleric Mr Abu Hamza, who is based at the mosque, condemned the raid and accused the police and British government of adopting "Rambo-style" tactics.

He claimed the operation, involving armed police, was in retaliation for the murder of Detective Constable Stephen Oake in Manchester last week and that it was part of a government-backed "war" on Islam.

Egyptian-born Mr Hamza (45) who claims he lost both hands and an eye fighting Soviet forces in Afghanistan, said: "You cannot find a reason for this kind of Rambo-like way of attacking the mosque - we heard there were 150 police and two helicopters. This was a residential community.

"I was anticipating the raid, it serves a multiple purpose, it serves Mr Blair and the police.

"This is the heartland of Algerian people in London and it is Blair giving out a message to America.

"What can people have in a mosque? I think it was a provocative act. It was silly and illogical.

"When did you last hear of a church being raided when someone has been arrested? These people do not have principles."

Mr Hamza claimed the seven men arrested were security guards who looked out for people dropping litter outside the mosque.

But the operation - codenamed Mermant - was given "complete support" by British Home Secretary David Blunkett.

Prime Minister Tony Blair's official spokesman said: "The police have the full support of the government in taking whatever action they feel they need to take in pursuit of their investigations.

PA