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THE POISON TRAIL; Cops hunt for terror cell on run with stock of deadly ricin toxin.

Byline: MARIE SHARP

SCOTS anti-terrorist officers are to hold secret talks with the Metropolitan Police as fears grow that an al-Qaeda cell is on the run with a cache of deadly ricin.

Scotland Yard intensified their hunt yesterday for the gang and a stock of the lethal poison.

Special Branch detectives believe at least three key plotters in a plan to kill dozens of Britons escaped Sunday's dragnet.

But security specialists believe as many as 20 North Africans, mainly Algerians, may be on the loose with a large stock of the toxin.

Police said yesterday that they had arrested a seventh suspect. He is aged 33 and is believed to be Algerian.

He was also taken to the high-security interrogation suite at Paddington Green police station.

Armed investigators wearing protective suits stormed a flat in Wood Green, north London, on Sunday and uncovered a kitchen laboratory manufacturing ricin.

Six men, all thought to be Algerian members of the GIA terrorist group, were arrested there and at other addresses in north and east London.

It emerged yesterday that two teenagers, both aged 17, had been given the flat by Islington Council after claiming to be asylum seekers.

One said he was Ethiopian, the other claimed to be Algerian. But detectives said the pair were believed to be using false identities. It was not known for sure who they were or where they were from.

A spokesman for Islington Council said: "Two of the people arrested were placed in the accommodation by Islington Council under its obligation to support destitute asylum seekers.

"We will assist the police with their inquiries as far as we are able."

Iranian students, who lived next door, said police first made inquiries about the flat six weeks ago.

Reza Kandi said: "The police came here in November late at night. They were asking how long we had lived here and they moved on to make inquiries with other neighbours.

"I had seen the men living there. They looked quite young. They had a red car. They were friendly and spoke English, although it was not too good."

A small amount of ricin residue was discovered in the flat, proving the laboratory had been in production.

But Yard chiefs fear the operation missed a much larger quantity of the toxin.

It is feared it had already been passed to accomplices, who were asked to carry out the attack. Sources within the Yard believe as many as 20 members of a GIA active service unit may be at large in London, Birmingham and other major British cities.

The information that led to the plot being uncovered came from the French secret service. They are the world's leading authority on Algerian, Morrocan, and Tunisian Islamic terrorist groups. They believe the target for the attack was to be either a London commuter train or American- owned fast food restaurants.

A Special Branch source said: "According to intelligence we have received, we are sure the plan was to cause as many casualties as possible by releasing the poison in a crowded place such as a tube train or underground station or a crowded restaurant or bar.

"We have long known that ideally they would like to hit an American-owned interest, an American- owned hotel or the offices of an American airline."

Special Branch cover at all British air and sea ports and the Eurostar express train stations at Ashford and Waterloo, were doubled as surveillance specialists kept watch for GIA suspects trying to slip out of Britain and for a replacement teams attempting to infiltrate in.

The seven arrests come just weeks after a cross-border operation involving Lothian and Borders Police and the Met saw five Algerians arrested in Edinburgh and three in London. All eight men appeared in Edinburgh Sheriff Court over Christmas charged with contravening the Terrorism Act.

Yesterday, lawyers for six of the men made a failed bid to have them released on bail at the High Court in Edinburgh.

But Lord Johnstone refused to grant bail after a brief hearing in private.

TERRIFYING LIST OF TOXIC CHEMICALS THAT CAN BE USED AS WEAPONS

FEW people will have heard of poison ricin until it was found in the kitchen of terrorist suspects. Yet ricin, which comes from the castor bean, can form part of a chemical arsenal.

Other toxins that could be a threat:

ACONITINE - This poison is extracted from the roots of a very common plant which can be found in most garden stores. Causes a painful death in 20 minutes.

CYANIDES - Causes death in powder, liquid or gaseous form. Details on home-made cyanide can be found on the internet.

COLCHICINE - This poison is extracted from a common plant. Causes insides to tear and bleed.

ERGOT - Same fungus which LSD is derived from.One gram can cause death.

NICOTINE - Only takes 2 drops of pure nicotine to kill.

MUSTARD GAS - Remains active for weeks and causes inflammation of mucous membranes, blisters, ulcers of skin, throat and lungs, blindness which can last weeks.

SARIN - Developed by Germans in WWII as a nerve agent. Causes convulsions, coma and death in less than 15 minutes.

CLAY PITCH - Can be bought over the counter. Once processed it can cause death from liver failure. Treatment rarely succeeds.

BOTULIN - Of them all, this must be the worst killer. One gram can kill more than 1 million people.

ANTHRAX BIOWEAPON - This nasty bacteria can survive for years in the soil. Once infected with anthrax, expect

convulsions, spasms and quick death.
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jan 9, 2003
Words:915
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