LONDON -- Police on Thursday arrested six people who are suspected of preparing terrorist strikes against targets in Britain.
In a brief statement, Scotland Yard announced that five men and one woman between the ages of 18 and 30 had been taken into custody in London. The suspects were taken as "part of a pre-planned intelligence-led operation" that was "not linked" to the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games set to begin in the British capital late this month, police said.
One 24-year-old man arrested at a home was tasered but not hospitalized, police said. Another suspect was arrested in the street in West London, officials said.
The police statement said authorities were also searching "eight residential premises in east, west and north London and one business premises in east London."
[Updated, 7:58 a.m. July 5: The BBC and other media outlets reported that the arrests were part of a possible plot involving Islamic extremists. According to the Guardian, three of those arrested were brothers from the east London area of Stratford, the main site of the Olympic Games.]
Although the government security service MI5 said there is no immediate terror threat to Britain, the present official risk level is graded as substantial. That means a threat is not imminent but a strong possibility, and security services across the country are on heightened alert in the run-up to the Olympics.
In a separate incident, armed police and military personnel closed a major toll road between Birmingham and London on Thursday morning after the driver of a bus en route to London from northwest England stopped the vehicle and reported a passenger handling a smoking liquid.
Authorities reopened the road after a search of the bus and its 48 passengers. Police said an investigation was ongoing but that they were not treating the event as a "counter-terrorism incident."
[Updated, 7:58 a.m. July 5: A Staffordshire police spokeswoman later said by telephone that the smoke came from "an electronic cigarette which produces a smoke-like vapor." A police statement said: "Whilst this was a genuine security alert, the significant concerns reported to us were unfounded."]
For the record, 12:38 p.m. July 5: A previous version of this story attributed the final quote to the Staffordshire police spokeswoman. It was provided by a separate police statement.
-- Janet Stobart
Photo: Police shut down a section of a roadway in central England on Thursday while they search a bus and its occupants after the driver reported that one passenger was handling a smoking liquid. Credit: STR / EPA