msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 9/19/2011 6:37:32 AM ET 2011-09-19T10:37:32

British police on Monday arrested seven people as part of a large intelligence-led anti terror operation in the central city of Birmingham.

West Midlands police said six men were arrested overnight and were being held under anti-terror legislation. Britain's Telegraph newspaper reported that the arrests were conducted between 11:30 p.m. (6:30 p.m. ET) Sunday and 1 a.m. Monday (8 p.m. ET Sunday).

A woman was also arrested at 6:30 a.m. (1:30 a.m. ET) Monday morning for failing to disclose information that may be relevant. All seven suspects are aged between 22 and 32.

Assistant police chief Marcus Beale said in a statement that the men were arrested in or near their homes by unarmed police officers as part of a "large, pre-planned, intelligence-led counter terrorism operation."

The BBC reported that the operation was thought to be the most significant raid this year, and that it was likely connected to Islamist extremism.

Beale said police are now searching six homes and one commercial property in Birmingham.

"I believe it was necessary to take action at this time in order to ensure public safety," Beale said. He said the operation is still at an early stage, and declined to give more details.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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