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No terror link in Dover alert.

ASECURITY alert which left thousands of ferry passengers stranded at sea for several hours has turned out not to be terrorist related, police said last night.

Kent Police said three men questioned today over the discovery of banned weapons including firearms, in a car at the Port of Dover , were now part of a 'criminal investigation'.

Themen all confirmed as British were originally arrested under the Terrorism Act but were continuing to be held in custody last night in connection with 'serious firearms offences and the possession of prohibited weapons'.

A police spokeswoman said: 'Permission has been given to further detain these three British nationals for what is now being treated as a criminal investigation. The status of that investigation changed this evening.'

The apparent downgrading of the probe is likely to raise further questions about the need to close the port for more than seven hours, plunging the area into chaos. An alarm was raised on Friday at about 7.20pm when customs officers found what they believed to be a suspect package in the car and an Army bomb disposal squad was called to investigate.

An exclusion zone was set up and the port came to a standstill as traffic travelling into Dover started to back up, causing gridlock in the town centre.

At the height of the alert 14 ferries were delayed, four inside the port and 10 in the Channel between Calais and Dover, according to Dover Harbour Board.

Despite no device being found by the bomb disposal squad, the exclusion zone was not lifted until 2.40am yesterday, by which time it was reported that traffic was already stretching back about two miles on the M20.

CAPTION(S):

BACK TO NORMAL... awaiting ferries at Dover
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Aug 31, 2003
Words:290
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