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U.K. arrests 5 "likely" linked to Brussels attack suspect

LONDON -- Police in England announced Friday the arrest of five people on suspicion of planning terror attacks in a case which could prove linked to the ISIS cell behind the deadly attacks in Paris and Brussels.

The West Midlands Police force said three men, aged 26, 40 and 59, and a 29-year-old woman were arrested in Birmingham, in northern England, on Thursday night and another man, 26, was arrested at Gatwick Airport south of London early on Friday morning.

Assistant Chief Constable Marcus Beale of the West Midlands police said the arrests were the result of "an extensive investigation by West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit (WMCTU), together with the wider counter terrorism network, MI5 and international partners including Belgian and French authorities to address any associated threat to the UK following the attacks in Europe."

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"The arrests were pre-planned and intelligence-led. There was no risk to the public at any time and there is no information to suggest an attack in the UK was being planned," added Beale.

The five were in custody and being questioned "on suspicion of being concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism."

Police said a "number of properties" in Birmingham were still being searched Friday as part of the ongoing investigation.

While the police did not directly link the arrests to the November 2015 carnage in Paris or the bomb attacks on Brussels Airport and subway system in March, British media reported previously that two of the suspects linked to the violence made repeated visits to Birmingham prior to the attacks in Paris.

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Mohamed Abrini, who was recently arrested in Brussels and identified as the man seen with two suicide bombers at the airport, and Abdelhamid Abaoud, who was killed in a police raid in the Paris neighborhood of Saint Denis days after the attack, had visited the English city.

There were also reports in British media in December that one of the Paris attackers had made several phone calls throughout the night of the Paris attacks to phones in Birmingham.

A counter-terrorism source told CBS News on Friday that the arrests were the culmination of a covert operation launched shortly after the November Paris attacks. The operation started after images of Birmingham were found on a phone that had been in possession of a terrorist, the source said.

The source could not confirm the arrests were directly linked to Abrini, but said it is "likely" they were.

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