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Terror Suspect Arrested at Gatwick Airport; 4 Others Held: Police

by Alexander Smith, Emma Ong and Robert Windrem /  / Updated 

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LONDON — Five terror suspects have been arrested in the U.K. in an operation involving British, French and Belgian authorities, officials said Friday.

Three men and one woman were arrested in the central city of Birmingham on Thursday night and one man was arrested a London's Gatwick Airport early Friday, the U.K.'s West Midlands Police said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for West Midlands Police would not say specifically whether the detentions were linked to arrests in France and Belgium relating to the Brussels and Paris attacks, only telling NBC News that they had "followed on from recent arrests in Europe."

However, U.S. counterterrorism officials tell NBC News that some of those arrested appear to have ties to those responsible for the Brussels and Paris attacks.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a British security source told NBC News security consultant Duncan Gardham that Mohamed Abrini, the man prosecutors say confessed to being the so-called "Man in White" who was among the Brussels airport bombers, was the main focus of the British investigation.

Image: Mohamed Abrini at Brussels airport
A photograph provided by Belgian Federal Police shows Mohamed Abrini at Brussels airport before the attack.Belgian Federal Police via EPA

Abrini traveled to Birmingham in the summer of 2015, according to Interpol.

Rohit Kachroo, security editor for NBC News' British partner ITV News, also tweeted that the investigation was related to the attacks in the Belgian and French capitals.

The operation came after an "extensive investigation" by counter-terror police, working with Britain's MI5 domestic security service and "and international partners including Belgian and French authorities," West Midlands Assistant Chief Constable Marcus Beale said in the statement.

"There was no risk to the public at any time and there is no information to suggest an attack in the U.K. was being planned," he added.

The three men arrested in Birmingham were aged 26, 40 and 59 and the woman was 29, according to police. The man arrested at London's Gatwick Airport was 26.

All five remained in custody and were being questioned by counter-terror officials Friday. Police also confirmed that number of searches were ongoing in Birmingham.

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