Extremist leaflets supporting Islamic State (IS) terrorists, which were handed out in the heart of London's main shopping district, were the reason behind two arrests earlier today (16 December).

Two men from Luton, in Bedfordshire, were held under terrorism laws following a furore over the leaflets, which were distributed to shoppers on Oxford Street in August.

The extremist literature hailed the creation of a so-called Islamic caliphate in Syria and Iraq, run according to the tenants of strict Muslim law – which includes gruesome executions and enslaving non-believers.

No direct reference was made to IS, in an apparent bid to comply with the letter – but not the spirit – of the law that bans support for proscribed organisations. Instead, the leaflets heaped praise upon the fundamentalist quasi-society that IS has set up in the Middle East region.

The stunt sparked anger among shoppers in Oxford, including a Muslim woman who claimed she was racially abused for confronting the distributors of the leaflets. Asmaa Al-kufaishi said on Twitter: "They don't know Islam."

A Scotland Yard spokesman said: "The arrests have been made under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) and are in relation to suspicion of supporting a proscribed organisation."