Police raid anti-poppy protest group

LONDON Fri Nov 11, 2011 12:13pm GMT

Demonstrators from a local group called ''Muslims Against Crusades'' protest during a march by the 1st Battalion, Royal Anglian Regiment, who recently returned from a combat tour in Afghanistan, through the London suburb of Barking June 15, 2010. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

Demonstrators from a local group called ''Muslims Against Crusades'' protest during a march by the 1st Battalion, Royal Anglian Regiment, who recently returned from a combat tour in Afghanistan, through the London suburb of Barking June 15, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Suzanne Plunkett

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LONDON (Reuters) - London counter-terrorism officers said on Friday they had carried out a raid on three premises linked to a radical Muslim group, shortly after the organisation, which had planned a demonstration to disrupt Armistice Day ceremonies, was banned.

The properties, connected to Muslims Against Crusades (MAC) and its leading figure Anjem Choudary, were raided late on Thursday night following the decision by Home Secretary Theresa May to make support of the group a criminal offence.

"At 11 p.m. last night, officers from the Counter Terrorism Command executed three search warrants under the Terrorism Act 2000 at addresses in east London," a London police spokesman said on Friday.

"These searches concluded at 5.30 a.m. this morning."

There were no arrests he said.

Choudary said his house and a community centre where the group used to teach in Whitechapel were two of the targets.

"It's a fishing expedition at the end of the day, they've got nothing on me. I haven't done anything illegal," he told Reuters. "Obviously it's inconvenient, but that doesn't stop me propagating what I believe."

Last year, members of MAC burnt two large poppies outside the Royal Albert Hall in London during the two-minute silence to mark Remembrance Day, the anniversary of the day the Armistice was signed marking the end of the First World War.

The action caused widespread anger, and the group had promised a "hell for heroes" demonstration at the same location on Friday. On its website, MAC said it had disbanded and Choudary said the protest over Britain's foreign policy would now not go ahead.

"I think that the objective has been achieved which is to show that the poppy and Armistice Day is a fig leaf which has been used to cover the crimes which have been committed," he said.

"Our message has gone viral and global really because of the pronouncement of Theresa May so I don't see there's any point (of holding the protest)."

May said MAC was the latest incarnation of organisations also linked to Choudary which had been banned, including al Muhajiroun, Islam4UK and Al Ghurabaa. Choudary said he would discuss options for a new group with colleagues.

(Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Steve Addison)

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