- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 21, 2009

LONDON (AP) - British authorities are seeking to deport nine terrorism suspects arrested earlier this month in a highly publicized police operation, officials said Tuesday.

The men were among 12 people arrested as part of an anti-terror sweep across northern England on April 8.

While British officials haven’t provided any details about what the men were suspected of doing, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said authorities were on to “a very big terrorist plot.”

But officials have yet to bring charges against any of the men, most of whom are Pakistanis visiting the country on student visas.

The raids were hastily moved forward after a senior police officer inadvertently revealed the operation to the media.

Britain’s Border Agency said in a statement that it was seeking to deport the men on national security grounds.

The agency did not go into detail about where the men would be sent or when, but a spokeswoman for the agency said that “we will be working with Pakistani authorities about the details of the return of these individuals.” She spoke on condition of anonymity, citing her office policy.

Authorities in Pakistan have previously voiced concerns over the possibility the men could be deported. Earlier this month Pakistani Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik said that, if Britain has enough evidence to charge and prosecute any of the suspects, that should happen in the U.K.

The men have the right to contest deportation through the Special Immigration Appeals Commission in London. It was not immediately clear Tuesday whether they would do so.

Two more suspects arrested in the raids remain in police detention. A twelfth man was transferred to the custody of immigration officials earlier this month. The spokeswoman declined to give any update on his status.

The arrests have roiled relations between Pakistan and Britain. Brown and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband have spoken with their Pakistani counterparts about the arrests.

News of the alleged plot also has raised questions about the strength of the U.K.’s immigration system. Opposition leaders are calling for a crackdown on the student visa system, which allows tens of thousands of foreigners into Britain each year.

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