SEVEN terror suspects arrested yesterday are thought to be involved in a plot to finance an al-Qaeda group using drug money. Cash for the al-Shabaab terrorist network in Somalia is said to come from the export of a plant called khat to the US and Canada.
It is legal in the UK, selling for under £2 a kilo, but banned in North America. It can fetch £350 a kilo on the black market there. It is also believed the suspects were involved in an alleged racket to supply weapons to Somali pirates.
More than 500 counter-terrorism cops backed by local police and officers from the UK Border Agency carried out dawn raids in London, Coventry and Cardiff.
Homeland Security Investigations from the US were also involved in the operation, codenamed Iridescent.
A source said last night: “A line of inquiry is the providing of money to finance terrorism and al-Shabaab in Somalia. Sales of khat are believed to be the source.
“Also being looked at is the sending of weapons to the US for onward shipment to pirates in Somalia.”
A man aged 49 and a woman aged 45 were detained at the same address in Croydon, South London. It was not clear whether they are man and wife. Two men aged 49 and 30 were arrested in the London suburb of Brent.
A man aged 45 and a man aged 42 were picked up in Coventry and another man aged 40 was arrested in Cardiff.
Warrants were granted allowing searches at 12 residential addresses.
The suspects are all thought to have links to Britain’s Somali community.
A police statement said: “The arrests were a part of a pre-planned, intelligence-led operation into suspected fundraising for terrorism overseas.”