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 Wednesday, 8 January, 2003, 18:28 GMT
Seventh arrest in ricin case
Police guard
Six men were arrested at the Wood Green flat
A seventh man has been arrested by anti-terrorist officers investigating the ricin find in London.

Police are still looking for at least two more people in connection with the discovery of the deadly poison in a north London flat.

Six men - understood to be north Africans - were arrested on Sunday and security experts are trying to establish if they have links to al-Qaeda.

Only small traces of ricin were found in the operation - launched after a tip-off - but there are concerns an amount of poison could have been made at the flat and has been moved.

Ricin poison
Tiny amount can kill
No known antidote
Causes gastroenteritis, vomiting and seizures
Scotland Yard said the seventh man, aged 33, was arrested by anti-terrorist branch officers in north London on Tuesday.

He is being held in custody at a central London police station.

Before the latest arrest, security sources said police were looking for at least three more "key individuals" in connection with the case.

It has been revealed that two of the six men arrested on Sunday are teenage asylum seekers aged 16 or 17.

One is from Algeria and the other is believed to be Ethiopian. They were housed in the flat in Wood Green by Islington Council.

The others arrested are in their 20s and 30s.

Police have searched five addresses and on Tuesday afternoon, officers returned to the flat in Wood Green.

Tony Blair said the arrests showed the continued threat of international terrorism was "present and real and with us now and its potential is huge".

Castor oil beans - from which ricin is made - and equipment and containers for crushing the beans were found at the flat.

Ricin beans
Ricin comes from the seeds of the castor oil plant
Doctors around the country have been alerted and told to look out for symptoms of ricin poisoning.

However, it is not believed to be an obvious choice for a weapon of mass destruction.

Playing down the immediate threat, Home Office Minister Beverley Hughes told BBC Radio 4's Today programme said: "People need to be alert but not alarmed."

To take effect, the toxin must enter the body by direct ingestion, inhalation or injection meaning it is more associated with assassination.

The most notable ricin case was the 1978 murder of the Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov.

The KGB were suspected to be behind the killing, initiated on London's Waterloo Bridge using a poison tipped umbrella.

The publicity surrounding the current arrests has concerned civil rights campaigners Liberty.

Director John Wadham said the scale of information being released by police and the government could jeopardise their right to a fair trial.

"These people may be guilty, they may not be. What I would like to see is some degree of calm in relation to the media and in relation to these arrests," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

Afghanistan stockpiles

Ricin is considered a potential biowarfare or bioterrorist agent and is on the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention's "B" list of agents - considered a moderate threat.

Large quantities were reportedly found in caves in Afghanistan.
Don't be alarmed - if you've got flu-like symptoms the chances are you've got flu

Director for Public Health

The government said it has alerted health service workers to the symptoms of ricin poisoning and given them details on how to treat it.

But one intensive care consultant, who asked not to be named, said his hospital had not been contacted through the e-mail alert system.

"The communication system isn't efficient and were there to be a major health risk it could be days before key practitioners found the details," he told Today.

Sue Atkinson, director of public health for London, said most hospitals in the capital had been alerted.

But she said the chance of ricin being used in a mass way was very small.

"People should know this is around but they shouldn't be alarmed," she said.

"If you've got flu-like symptoms, the chances are you've got flu."

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"People should still be aware that ricin poisoning produces flu-like symptoms"
  Home Office minister Beverley Hughes
"People need to be alert, but not alarmed"
  John Wadham, director of civil rights group Liberty
"I would like to see some degree of calm in relation to the media"

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