Britain Denies Report It Has Arrested al-Qaida Suspect

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LONDON - British authorities said Monday they had not arrested a London Muslim cleric wanted in other countries as a top al-Qaida suspect, despite reports Britain was holding him in a safe house.

Time Magazine quoted a European security source as saying Abu Qatada, described by a Spanish judge as the "spiritual leader" of Osama bin Laden's militant network in Europe, was living with his family at a safe house in northern England.

Britain froze Qatada's assets last year, and security sources said in November that they expected to arrest him before year's end under new anti-terrorism laws. He is wanted in Jordan for terror-related crimes.

But no arrest was ever announced in Britain, and Qatada stopped appearing in public.

Time quoted its European source as saying: "The deal is that Abu Qatada is deprived of contact with extremists in London and Europe but can't be arrested or expelled because nobody officially knows where he is."

A spokesman for Scotland Yard said Monday Qatada had not been arrested under anti-terror measures, and declined to comment on whether he was cooperating with British authorities.

"We do not comment on persons we may or may not be interviewing," he said.



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