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Anti-terror arrests 'necessary'

Britain's top counter terrorism officer has revealed the arrest of 12 suspects in four cities over fears they were preparing to launch an attack was "absolutely necessary".

Scotland Yard Assistant Commissioner John Yates also warned that searches of homes in London, Cardiff, Stoke and Birmingham could take days to complete as police prepare to question the men.

Speaking outside New Scotland Yard, he said: "With the information we have, I believe today's arrests were absolutely necessary in order to keep the public safe."

The 12 suspects, aged between 17 and 28 and at least five of whom are of Bangladeshi origin, were arrested during 5am raids at homes in London, Stoke-on-Trent, Birmingham and Cardiff.

Police swooped over fears the group were ramping up their activities after months of surveillance and monitoring by counter terrorism officers and colleagues at MI5. Sources said they were investigating if the gang were inspired by al Qaida but played down speculation they may have been planning a Christmas or New Year bomb attack.

Officials also believe the operation was not linked to the recent failed Stockholm suicide bombing or the Yemen al Qaida printer bomb plot and was not modelled on the Mumbai commando-style attack.

Three terraced houses, including two neighbouring properties, were searched in Grove Street, Cobridge, Stoke-on-Trent. A man, described by neighbours as aged in his mid-20s, was arrested at a three-bedroomed property in Rialto Place, Tunstall.

Police said four men, one aged 19, two aged 26 and one aged 25, were being questioned. One was arrested at a friend's house in Birmingham.

In Cardiff, police arrested three men aged between 23 and 28 at their homes in the Riverside area and two at their homes in the Ely area. In London, police arrested three men aged between 17 and 28 at their homes in the centre of the capital. A fourth home was also being searched.

All 12 suspects were detained on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism in Britain. The arrests were the most high-profile raids in Britain since April 2009, when 12 men were detained across northern England.

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