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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 June 2006, 21:19 GMT 22:19 UK
Blair defends police terror raid
Detectives are still questioning two brothers arrested in the raid
Prime Minister Tony Blair says he is not afraid of a Muslim "backlash" in the wake of an anti-terror raid on a house in Forest Gate, east London.

He said he backed the police and security services 101% and he refused to be drawn on suggestions that the armed operation had been a failure.

Police are questioning two brothers - one of whom was shot during a raid - on suspicion of terrorism involvement.

Mohammed Abdulkahar and his brother Abul Koyair both deny the allegations.

'Reasonable' intelligence

Mr Blair spoke out about Friday's raid during a webcast interview posted on the Number 10 website.

Muslim leader Muhammad Abdul Bari has warned trust between Muslims and police could be damaged in the wake of last week's operation.

It's a real mistake to think that the average person from the Muslim community is any different from anyone else - they know perfectly well there is a problem with terrorism
Tony Blair

Assistant Commissioner Andy Hayman has said they had "no choice" but to carry out the raid after getting "specific intelligence".

Mr Blair said it was essential the police took action if they received "reasonable" intelligence suggesting a terror attack.

But asked if he feared a Muslim backlash following the raid, Mr Blair said: "I'm really not.

"I think it's a real mistake to think that the average person from the Muslim community is any different from anyone else.

"They know perfectly well there is a problem with terrorism."

Outcry fears

Mr Blair said if the police and security services received information that was "reasonable", it was their duty to make sure they go and do everything possible.

"I think the Islamic community, like everybody else, recognises that's what happened," he said.

He outlined his backing for the officers involved in the operation.

"I support the police 101% - and the security services," he said.

"You can only imagine if they fail to take action and something terrible happened what outcry would be then, so they are in an impossible situation."

The prime minister praised Mr Hayman and MI5 director general Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller "as absolutely top rate professionals".

'Be wary'

But he refused to comment on suggestions that the raid had been a failure.

"I think we should be very, very wary of drawing conclusions," he said.

"Let's just wait and see. There may be a whole series of things they need to look into in relation to that."

Mr Abdulkahar was treated in hospital for a wounded shoulder after the raid, which involved dozens of armed officers.

He was then transferred to Paddington Green high security police station, and on Monday afternoon doctors said he had recovered enough for questioning.

'Keeping strong'

Both brothers are being questioned about involvement in planning or carrying out terrorism acts.

Police expect to ask magistrates on Wednesday for permission to continue holding the men for up to 14 days.

I am completely innocent of any acts to do with terrorism
Abul Koyair, in a statement read out by his solicitor

On Tuesday evening, Mr Koyair's solicitor Julian Young emerged from Paddington Green police station to issue a statement on behalf of his client.

He said: "I still maintain that I am completely innocent of any acts to do with terrorism. I am OK and keeping strong. My family need not worry about me."

The solicitor said his client would appear by videolink at Bow Street Magistrates Court on Wednesday, when police would seek permission to hold the brothers for further questioning.

Recently-elected Muslim Council (MCB) of Britain leader Muhammad Abdul Bari has urged police to give a "clear picture" of the operation.

Dr Bari visited Forest Gate to listen to the "evident concerns" of Muslims in the area.

"The danger is the trust between the community and the police may be broken. The community feels very vulnerable," he said.

But Mr Blair suggested that the heightened terrorist threat meant that the police and security services would have to take action if they received information of a possible attack.

"Part of the modern world, I'm afraid, is that you have to live with a greater degree of precaution on the part of our security services and our police," he added.

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