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Britain Arrests 13 on Terrorist Suspicions, Immigration Violations - 2002-01-17

Britain has conducted a wave of arrests of terrorist suspects, including two Algerian men charged with membership in the al-Qaida terrorist network. In all, 13 men have been detained.

The arrests in the central city of Leicester are part of what police call an "on-going pan-European anti-terrorist investigation."

Police say most of the arrested men are suspected terrorists, but a few are being held on immigration violations.

The most serious charges have been lodged against two Algerian men.

Thirty-seven-year old Baghdad Meziane is charged with being a leader of al-Qaida, the terrorist network accused of carrying out the September 11 attacks against the United States.

The other Algerian, 30-year-old Brahim Benmerzouga, is charged with membership in al-Qaida.

A judge has ordered both men held without bail until they appear in court again next Thursday.

Britain has been cracking down on Islamic militants since the September attacks. Foreign suspects can be detained without trial under a new anti-terrorist law.

A number of Algerians living in Britain have been arrested in the unfolding police investigation. Among them is 27-year-old Lotfi Raissi. He faces possible extradition to the United States, where he is alleged to have trained some of the hijackers involved in the September attacks. His next court appearance is scheduled for February 12.