London terror suspects no threat to US, officials say

21st December 2010, Comments 0 comments

The 12 men arrested by British police Monday on suspicion of plotting an Al-Qaeda-inspired bomb plot were no threat to the United States, President Barack Obama's national security team said.

"As far as I know, we have not yet found any connection between those arrests and any threats to the United States," US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told ABC News.

Although she, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Obama's chief counterterrorism adviser John Brennan declined to discuss specifics about the British case, they sought to reassure the American public at the start of a busy week of holiday travel.

The trio echoed comments made by Michael Leiter, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, suggesting that some attacks could not be stopped and lives would be lost.

"I think Mike Leiter was correct," Napolitano said. "You cannot hermetically seal the United States."

Clapper acknowledged that "we're not going to bat 1,000 necessarily. We can't guarantee that... But we're certainly doing everything we can to ensure that we do thwart any kind of an attack."

The comments were made in excerpts of an interview to air in full late Tuesday.

The arrests of the men aged between 17 and 28 came amid heightened tensions following Sweden's first-ever suicide bombing last week, which was conducted by a man who lived and was allegedly radicalized in Britain.

Five of the men held on Monday were arrested in the Welsh capital Cardiff, three were detained in the central English town of Stoke-on-Trent, one in England's second city Birmingham and three were held in London.

Scotland Yard Assistant Commissioner John Yates, who is in charge of counter-terrorism policing, said it was a "large-scale, pre-planned and intelligence-led operation involving several forces."

Britain is on high alert after upgrading its perceived terror threat level earlier this year to "severe," which is the second highest on a five-level grading and means a terrorist attack is "highly likely," the Home Office said.

The threat level was hiked in January after a six-month spell at "substantial" -- the only time it has dipped below the two highest levels since it was set up in 2006, following the London bombings in July 2005.

Those attacks on three Underground trains and a bus killed 52 people, plus the four suicide bombers, who were all British nationals.

© 2010 AFP

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