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U.K. Counterterrorism Police Arrest Five Men

LONDON (Reuters) -- Counterterrorism detectives said they had arrested five men in early morning raids today in northwest England.

They were being held on suspicion of committing terrorism offenses including inciting an act of terrorism overseas.

Police said the suspects, aged 21, 26, 27, 52, and 62, were detained after swoops at homes in Manchester and Bolton, and at a hotel near London's Heathrow Airport. The properties were now being searched.

No armed officers were involved in the raids.

"There was no direct threat against Greater Manchester and the arrests are the latest stage of a thorough investigation," said Assistant Chief Constable Dave Thompson.

"This is a complex and ongoing investigation which has now reached the point where it was necessary to make arrests and speak to a number of people."

In April, police carried out raids across northwest England in an operation against what Prime Minister Gordon Brown described at the time as a "very big terrorist plot."

Those raids had to be brought forward after the then-top counterterrorism officer was photographed carrying a document relating to the operation, and 12 men who had been arrested were later released without charge.

Brown will use a speech later on Monday to warn of the threat posed by Al-Qaeda to justify military action in Afghanistan, saying the militant group had an extensive recruitment network across the world including in Britain.

"I vigorously defend our action in Afghanistan and Pakistan because Al-Qaeda is today the biggest source of threat to our national security -- and to the security of people's lives in Britain," he will tell the annual London Lord Mayor's Banquet, according to excerpts of the speech released in advance.