British police said on Saturday they had arrested four men under anti-terrorism legislation after a tip-off from a newspaper which said the suspects tried to buy explosives for a "dirty bomb."
Three of the men were arrested in a raid on a hotel in Brent Cross, north London, on Friday and the fourth was seized later the same day at his home, also in north London.
“All four were arrested under section 41 of the Terrorism Act, on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism,” London’s Metropolitan police said in a statement.
They said they had been acting on information provided by the News of the World newspaper, which said one of its reporters had infiltrated a gang trying to buy radioactive material for a Saudi man who it said might be linked to al-Qaida.
The tabloid newspaper said the Saudi was prepared to pay $540,600 for a kilogram of 'red mercury’, a mysterious radioactive substance which is rumored to have been developed by Russian scientists during the Cold War.
The paper said one of its reporters made contact with an Indian-born banker and a Somali — the head of the gang — who wanted to buy bomb-making material for a client in the Middle East who they said supported “the Muslim cause.”
As the staunchest ally of the United States in its "war on terrorism," Britain has long seen itself as a potential target of an attack like the ones on New York, Washington, Bali and Madrid.
Hundreds of suspects have been arrested under the country’s far-reaching anti-terrorist legislation, passed in 2000, but only a handful have been convicted.