Anti-terrorist police were last night searching a Muslim school at the centre of an investigation into terrorist training camps being run in Britain.
Officers were scouring the Jameah Islamiyah faith school, set in 54 acres of woodland near Tunbridge Wells, East Sussex, after arresting 14 men in London who are suspected of organising “suicide bomber” training camps.
Security sources told The Sunday Telegraph that the investigation was linked to concerns that young, radicalised Muslim men were being trained to launch suicide attacks in “crowded areas” of the capital and possibly Manchester. Shopping centres and main-line railway stations are believed to have been possible targets, although there is no suggestion that the London Underground, would be attacked.
The operation began on Friday night when around 50 armed police stormed a Chinese Halal restaurant in south-east London. Diners were questioned before several men were arrested. In other raids in the capital, more men were arrested.
Those detained, who are described as of “varied ethnicity”, and aged between 17 and 48, were alleged to be involved in the setting up of camps where young people would be “encouraged” to become terrorists.
Early yesterday, scores of police began a search of the dilapidated buildings of the Jameah Islamiyah school, which, according to its Ofsted report, has only nine pupils. No one was arrested. However, Abu Hamza, the former Imam at Finsbury Park mosque, who is serving seven years for inciting murder and racial hatred, had reportedly organised training at the school.
Commenting on the raids, one security source said: “These men were arrested because of their alleged involvement in terrorist related training activities. They are alleged to be involved in the recruitment of terrorists and encouraging others to take part in terrorist related activity.”
The developments came hours after Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke, the head of Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorist branch, said that his officers are watching thousands of Muslims suspected of being involved in terrorism. Asked how many suspects police were monitoring, Mr Clarke said: “The numbers of people who we have to be interested in are into the thousands.” Patrick Mercer, the shadow spokesman for homeland security, yesterday described the operation as a “big success”. He added: “I hope this makes the Government realise that the whole country is now facing a threat from Islamist terrorists and not just London.”