- The Washington Times - Monday, January 13, 2003

LONDON, Jan. 13 (UPI) — Four North Africans went to court Monday to face charges of terrorism and production of chemical weapons and six others were arrested by anti-terrorism police investigating the discovery of the lethal poison ricin in a London apartment.

Samir Feddag, Mouloud Feddag, Mustapha Taleb and a 17-year-old youth were charged under Britain's Terrorism Act with "possession of articles of value to a terrorist" and with developing or producing chemical weapons. After a 45-minute hearing, all four were ordered held for an appearance Friday at London's Old Bailey criminal court.

The Feddags, Taleb and the teenager, whose identity was ordered withheld for legal reasons, were arrested after anti-terrorism detectives in protective clothing, acting on a tip-off, raided an apartment in north London Jan. 5 and found a small amount of ricin, a toxin that experts say is so deadly that a 1-gram dose could kill more than 15,000 people.

Scientists at the Ministry of Defense's Porton Down laboratories confirmed the substance as ricin. Scotland Yard believes the four suspects who appeared Monday at London's Bow Street Magistrates Court were plotting to use it, though prosecutor Susan Hemming declined to disclose details.

The London raid was described as part of an "ongoing investigation" by Scotland Yard's anti-terrorism detectives, who launched similar raids at two locations in the seaside town of Bournemouth, in Dorset, southwest England, and arrested five more men and a woman, all of North African origin.

"I can confirm that on Sunday, Jan. 12, anti-terrorist branch officers from the Metropolitan Police in London, helped by Dorset police, carried out a search of premises in the Bournemouth area," said a Dorset police spokesman Monday, reading a statement prepared by Scotland Yard.

Police said no chemical materials were found at the two addresses in Bournemouth. But, the spokesman added, "We are not prepared to comment further at this stage." Authorities also declined to identify the six.

At Monday's magistrates court hearing in London, the four suspects listened intently to interpreters as the charges were read out. They spoke only to confirm their names and addresses before District Judge Timothy Workman ordered them held for Friday's appearance at the Old Bailey, where they could be tried.

In all, seven North Africans were arrested in the London raid. A fifth man, Nasreddine Fekhadji, was charged with forgery and counterfeiting, and an unidentified sixth was arrested for alleged drugs and immigrations violations. The seventh man was handed over to immigration authorities.

Ricin, which can be produced comparatively easily from castor oil seeds, is a major concern to police because it is so deadly in such small quantities. Swallowed or inhaled, it acts by causing the lungs, liver, kidneys and immunological systems to shut down, causing death within hours or days. There is no known antidote.

Terrorism experts say that ricin is not particularly efficient as a mass attack weapon and likely would see better use in a targeted strike on an individual or a small group of people.

Britain has already seen one assassination using ricin — an attack in London 25 years ago on Bulgarian author and dissident Georgi Markov, who investigators said was killed by an umbrella used by an assailant to inject a pinhead-sized pellet containing the poison into his leg as he waited for a bus.

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