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Terrorist Suspects Have Escaped in Britain

October 17, 2006|From the Associated Press

LONDON — Two suspected terrorists who were being detained under strict conditions resembling house arrest have escaped, officials said Monday.

An unidentified British man accused of trying to travel to Iraq to fight alongside insurgents is thought to have fled through a window of a London mental health unit two weeks ago.

Officials said the second suspect, an Iraqi, was on the run after escaping several months ago.

Tony McNulty, the minister of state for policing, said the government had not publicly disclosed the escapes previously because anti-terrorism legislation prevented the suspects' identities from being revealed.

He also rejected concerns that the two men posed a danger to the public or could mount a terrorist attack against Britain.

"People who needed to know, in the context of public safety, did know," McNulty told the British Broadcasting Corp.

Both men were being detained under so-called control orders, which authorities have used to restrict the activities of terror suspects who have not been charged but are deemed a risk to national security.

The contentious measures allow suspects to be electronically tagged, kept under curfew, denied the use of telephones or the Internet and barred from some personal contacts.

Britain's Home Office, responsible for the control order regime, said it could not discuss details of the cases, but confirmed that 15 terrorism suspects -- six of them British -- were being held under control order powers.

Prime Minister Tony Blair's government devised control orders after courts ruled that suspected terrorists could not be locked up indefinitely without being charged.

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