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3 charged over threat to kill U.K. premier

/ Source: The Associated Press

Three British men questioned about an online threat to assassinate Prime Minister Gordon Brown have been charged with a range of terror offenses, police said Thursday.

One of the men, 22-year-old Ishaq Kanmi, is accused of soliciting murder, being a member or "professing to belong" to al-Qaida, and distributing terrorist publications, Lancashire Constabulary said in a statement.

Abbas Iqbal, 23, has been charged with distributing terrorist publications, police said, adding that his 21-year-old brother, Ilya, is accused of possessing an item suspected of being useful for the preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism.

Police refused to elaborate on the charges. The men were due at Westminster Magistrates Court in central London on Friday.

Kanmi and Abbas Iqbal were arrested Aug. 14 at Manchester Airport in northern England — reportedly as they were about to board a flight to Finland, although police have refused to comment on their destination. Ilya Iqbal was arrested in Accrington, about 35 miles north of the airport. All three were described by police as being Asian, which in a British context suggests they are of Indian, Pakistani or Bangladeshi descent.

Media reports said the men were being held in connection with a Web site posting signed "al-Qaida in Britain" that threatened the life of Brown and his predecessor, Tony Blair. The statement, posted on a radical Web site earlier this year, demanded the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, and the release of some Muslim prison inmates from Britain's high security Belmarsh prison.

Neither police nor officials at Brown's Downing Street office have provided any comment on the allegations.

The men's homes were in the northern English city of Blackburn, about 225 miles northwest of London. One of the addresses searched by police in connection to the investigation was close to the home of Junade Feroze, who was jailed in Britain for 22 years last year for conspiring to set off explosions at unspecified targets. Prosecutors said Feroze was a member of a terrorism cell led by al-Qaida-linked operative Dhiren Barot that plotted bomb attacks on U.S. financial targets, London hotels and train stations.

Police have made other arrests in the investigation.

A fourth man, arrested Tuesday in Blackburn, remains in custody. So, too, does a fifth man, arrested in the northern English town of Derby the same day.