msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 9/18/2010 8:59:48 PM ET 2010-09-19T00:59:48

Six men arrested in a suspected terrorist plot against Pope Benedict XVI on his state visit to Britain were released without charge late Saturday night.

The release by Scotland Yard came hours after Metropolitan Police sources said there was "no credible threat' to the pope.

Five of the six who work as street cleaners in Westminster were arrested in a pre-dawn raid Friday after they were overheard at a London garbage depot apparently plotting an attack. The sixth was arrested later in the day.

The Metropolitan Police earlier refused to confirm reports that the men were joking, saying they had to investigate what might have been a genuine threat, BBC News reported.

The men are employed by Veolia Environment Services, a cleaning company contracted by Westminster Council.

At least five of the men are not British nationals, most are thought to be Algerian, the BBC said.

The men, aged between 26 and 50, were arrested on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism on Friday. The Vatican said the pope was calm despite the arrests and planned no changes to his schedule. But the arrests overshadowed a major address by Benedict to British politicians, businessmen and cultural leaders about the need to restore faith and ethics to public policymaking.

The sixth man, aged 29, was arrested Friday afternoon at a home in north London, police said.

Authorities searched eight homes in north and east London and two businesses in central London. Police said an initial search did not uncover any hazardous items.

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Searches of the premises were completed and had not revealed any weapons or suspicious materials, the BBC said.

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Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi earlier said that officials traveling with the pope didn’t know much more about the arrests than what the police had said publicly.

"We have compete trust in the police," Lombardi told reporters. "The police are taking the necessary measures. The situation is not particularly dangerous. The pope is happy about this trip and is calm."

Slideshow: Pageantry, controversy: Pope visits Britain (on this page)

The pope has been heavily protected during his four-day visit to Britain, traveling in a custom-built bulletproof car surrounded by security officials.

Four young British Islamists killed 52 people and wounded hundreds when they set off suicide bombs on three underground trains and a bus in July 2005.

The Associated Press, Reuters and msnbc.com staff contributed to this report.

Video: 5 arrested, linked to threat against pope

Photos: Pope Benedict XVI visits the United Kingdom

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  1. Pope Benedict XVI, right, is seen next to his personal secretary, father Gaenswein George, as they arrive at the Ciampino airport in Rome on Sunday, Sept. 19, after a four-day visit to England and Scotland. (Alessandro Bianchi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Pope Benedict XVI leaves Oscott College seminary in Birmingham, England, Sept. 19. (Pool via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Pope Benedict XVI addresses a mass to beatify Cardinal John Henry Newman, pictured in the background, in Birmingham, England, on Sept. 19. Pope Benedict XVI's state visit to Britain has been a "spiritual success", his spokesman said Sunday. (Adrian Dennis / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. A girl takes holy communion as Pope Benedict XVI takes the beatification mass of Cardinal Newman at Cofton Park on Sept. 19, in Birmingham, England. On the last day of Pope Benedict XVI's state visit, the Pontiff is beatifying Cardinal Newman in front of over 60,000 faithful. His Holiness also met The Queen as well as political and religious representatives during the four day visit. (Christopher Furlong / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Pilgrims await the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI in Cofton Park, Birmingham, England, Sept. 19. (Kirsty Wigglesworth / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. People crowd Hyde Park during a prayer vigil led by Pope Benedict XVI in London, Sept. 18. (Gregorio Borgia / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Pope Benedict XVI chats with Catholic youth outside Westminster Cathedral in central London on Sept. 18. Pope Benedict apologised to victims of sexual abuse on Saturday, saying paedophile priests had brought "shame and humiliation" on him and the entire Roman Catholic Church. (Max Rossi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Pope Benedict XVI arrives for a celebration of Catholic education at St Mary's University College, Twickenham, in SW LondonFriday. The pope is on a four day visit to the United Kingdom. (Claudio Onorati / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Pope Benedict XVI arrives for a service of prayer at St Mary's University College Chapel during day two of his four day state visit at Twickenham on Friday in London, England. (Wpa Pool / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Pope Benedict XVI meets Britain's Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, during a meeting of religious leaders at St Mary's University College, in Twickenham, south-west London on Friday. (Toby Melville / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Police patrol outside the Houses of Parliament ahead of the visit by Pope Benedict XVI, where he will give an address to the Civil Society, Westminster Hall in the Palace of Westminster on Friday in London. (Matt Cardy / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Pilgrims depart from buses parked near Bellahouston Park, Glasgow, prior to the papal mass to be celebrated there Thursday afternoon. (Chris Clark / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Supporters gather ahead of the arrival of Benedict for the papal mass at Bellahouston Park on Thursday. (Jeff J Mitchell / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Queen Elizabeth II's husband, Prince Philip, greets Pope Benedict XVI Thursday as he arrives in Scotland to begin a four-day trip. The trip is the first to the U.K. by a Pontiff since John Paul II in 1982, and the first to be designated a state visit as Queen invited him, rather than the church. (Andrew Milligan / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. The pope inspects a guard of honour at Edinburgh Airport on Thursday. (Pool / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Crowds watch as the Popemobile makes its way along Edinburgh's Princes Street on Thursday. (Derek Blair / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Pilgrims display their souvenir scarves in Bellahouston Park in Glasgow, Scotland, on Thursday ahead of a celebration of mass slated for later in the day. (Leon Neal / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Pope Benedict XVI, right on stage, Britain's Prince Philip, left, and Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, center, inspect an honor guard of members of the Royal Company of Archers and members of the Royal Regiment of Scotland Band as the Pope arrives at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, in Edinburgh on Thursday. (Lefteris Pitarakis / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. The pope's controversial yet historic state trip to the United Kingdom has been overshadowed by the sex abuse scandals which have shaken confidence in the Roman Catholic Church. (Lefteris Pitarakis / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip walk with the pope to the Morning Drawing Room in the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Queen's official residence in Scotland on Thursday. (Dan Kitwood / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Ulster Protestant leader Rev. Ian Paisley, center, is seen at a protest at Magdalen Chapel in Edinburgh as the pope arrives at the city. (Jon Super / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. A car drives past an billboard ahead of the pope's visit. (Paul Ellis / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. A double-decker bus on London's Oxford St. carries a poster urging the pope to ordain women as priests. (Horacio Villalobos / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Pope Benedict XVI arrives for mass at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow, Scotland, Thursday. (Nigel Roddis / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Pope Benedict XVI's kisses a baby as he arrives for mass at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow, Scotland, Thursday. (Nigel Roddis / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Pope Benedict XVI conducts Mass at Bellahouston Park on Thursday, Sept. 16 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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