Khat arrest terrorist
The suspects were held during a series of co-ordinated raids on homes in four cities and towns across England and Wales.
They have been linked to a multi-million-pound international conspiracy to import a drug called khat to the US and Canada, where it is illegal.
Drug ring: Seven people have been arrested on suspicion of funding terrorism by smuggling Khat - pictured for sale in a market in Hargeisa, Somaliland, Somalia - from England to the U.S.
Sources said gang members used human couriers, including children, and parcel services to transport khat, a flowering shrub that produces a mild high when chewed and is popular in parts of Africa.
Fresh leaves contain the drug cathinone, an addictive stimulant with effects similar to but less intense than that of methamphetamine or cocaine.
The side effects can include disorientation, hallucination and hyperactivity, and campaigners believe khat may be linked to mental instability and make users more vulnerable to being influenced by fundamentalists who peddle it.
The Government is being urged to join almost every other major European country and ban its trade and consumption.
The arrests were made by detectives from the Counter Terrorism Command at four addresses in London, Coventry and Cardiff on Tuesday morning.
"The arrests were a part of a pre-planned, intelligence-led operation, into suspected fundraising for terrorism overseas," the Metropolitan Police said in a statement.
Six men, ranging in age from 30 to 49, and a 45-year-old woman, were taken to a central London police station where they remain in custody.
The police said they were "investigating a network suspected of illegally exporting the stimulant khat, which is legal in the UK" to other countries.
Khat is grown in North East Africa and Yemen and chewed leaves act as an amphetamine-like stimulant. It has been used in the region for centuries.
The World Health Organisation said: "Khat chewing induces a state of euphoria and elation with feelings of increased alertness and arousal - this is followed by a stage of vivid discussions, loquacity and an excited mood.
"However, at the end of a khat session the user may experience depressive mood, irritability, anorexia and difficulty to sleep."
Sky News crime correspondent Martin Brunt said: "The plot is allegedly to export the khat from Britain to the US and Canada where it is banned.
"The money that this network has allegedly been raising was then channelled to support terrorism in Somalia or other areas of North East Africa."
A further eight search warrants were executed at seven residential addresses in London, Worthing, and Coventry, and a business premises in Coventry.
Police said that searches were ongoing, but no other arrests have been made at these premises.
Brunt added: "The US Homeland Security department has been involved in the operation and the planning of it over several weeks."
Scotland Yard said the group was arrested as part of an operation that involved Homeland Security Investigations, the investigative branch of U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.The operation was investigating a network suspected of illegally exporting a leaf known as khat from the U.K., where it is legal, to the U.S. and Canada, where it is a controlled substance, Scotland Yard said.
“Law enforcement had developed leads, in the U.K. and U.S., that khat was being transshipped through the U.K., then illegally smuggled into the United States,” said Ross Feinstein, a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “The proceeds generated by this illegal activity (were) then transferred back to Somalia.”
He added that U.S. law enforcement is continuing to work closely with its counterparts overseas on the investigation.
British police said one woman and six men were arrested early Tuesday at four separate residences in London, Coventry and Cardiff, Wales.
Those four homes are being searched along with seven other residential addresses and a business address in Coventry, police added.
Police said the seven people arrested in the early morning raids are suspected of involvement in funding a terrorist organization and laundering the proceeds of crime for that purpose.