LONDON “” British counterterrorism police officers investigating a suspected conspiracy to assassinate Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his predecessor, Tony Blair, arrested a 29-year-old man in central England on Tuesday, officials said Wednesday.
The arrest of the man, who was not identified, was the fifth in two weeks in an investigation centering on blue-collar towns in central and northwest England.
Two men were arrested earlier this month at the Manchester airport as they were about to board a flight to Finland. A third was seized in the northwestern town of Accrington. A fourth man, described by the Press Association news agency as “believed to be a white Muslim convert,” was also detained Tuesday in nearby Blackburn. The four men were all in their early 20s and were being held under counterterrorism laws permitting detention without charge or trial for limited periods.
According to British news reports, the suspected plot was related to calls on a British jihadist Web site last January by a previously unknown group identifying itself as Al Qaeda in Britain. But no concrete planning for an attack was under way, these reports said.
The Web site posting also urged the withdrawal of British forces from Afghanistan and Iraq.
After the fifth arrest, which was made in Derby, the police said officers were searching a house there and were likely to continue the investigation for several days.
The suspected conspiracy is unusual because previous plots ascribed to Islamic militants have been aimed at mass targets rather than individuals.