Islamist firebrand Abu Qatada has been arrested in London for allegedly breaching his bail conditions, just days before he was due to appear in court to fight a renewed UK government bid to deport him.
Following a search of his north London home by the Metropolitan Police counter-terrorism unit which began at 6.30am on Thursday 7 March, Qatada was arrested by UK Border Agency officials the following day.
Police simultaneously raided another house and a business address, and were still searching a third house late on Friday.
A Home Office spokesman said: "The UK Border Agency arrested a 52-year-old man from north London for alleged breaches of his bail conditions imposed by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC)." He said the breach would be considered by SIAC as soon as possible.
A spokesman for Scotland Yard said: "The searches are being carried out under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act and are in connection with ongoing inquiries by the Counter Terrorism Command."
Qatada was due to appear in court on Monday 11 March to face Home Secretary Theresa May's appeal against a judge's decision last year that he could not be deported to Jordan, where he was convicted in absentia on terrorism charges in 1998. Qatada is a citizen of Jordan, but fled to the UK with his wife and family in 1993, and was granted asylum in 1994.
The cleric, once described by a Spanish judge as "Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe", has had a world-wide travel ban imposed by the United Nations Security Council for his alleged links with the terrorist organisation al-Qaida. Videos of him preaching were allegedly found in the flat of 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta.
He has been battling extradition from the UK for years. Last November three judges at SIAC ruled that evidence believed to have been obtained by torture from former co-defendants Abu Hawsher and Al-Hamasher could be used against him in a retrial in Jordan, and released him on bail from Long Lartin prison.
As part of his bail conditions, Qatada was allowed to leave his home only between 8am and 4pm, and was fitted with a GPS electronic tag that allowed police to track his movements.
Jordanian authorities have said that evidence gained from torture would not be used in a retrial.