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Radical preacher Anjem Choudary was one of nine men arrested early this morning as part of an investigation into Islamist terrorism.
Choudary, 47, and eight other men aged 22, 31, 31, 32, 36, 38, 39 and 51 were arrested by Metropolitan Police officers in London this morning, and have all been taken to police stations - where they remain in custody.
His arrest came shortly after he posted a series of nine tweets at about 5am today with an anti-Western tone, referring to the ongoing crisis involving ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria.
Muslim activist Abu Izzadeen - born Trevor Brooks - is also among the nine men arrested.
Some 19 residential, business or community premises were being searched today as part of the investigation, Scotland Yard said.
Eleven of these were in east London, one was in west London, one was in north-west London and five were in south London - while a residential address was also being searched in Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire.
A police spokesman said: ‘These arrests and searches are part of an ongoing investigation into Islamist-related terrorism and are not in response to any immediate public safety risk.’
Officers confirmed that the nine men were arrested on suspicion of being members of a proscribed organisation, supporting a proscribed organisation and encouraging terrorism.
Earlier this week, it was reported that Choudary said he has no sympathy for Alan Henning, a volunteer aid worker who was captured in Syria.
ISIS militants threatened to behead the 47-year-old in a video released earlier this month, which showed the murder of another British man, David Haines.
Choudary co-founded the now banned group al-Muhajiroun. Fanatics Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, who were both jailed earlier this year for the brutal slaying of Fusilier Lee Rigby, were both seen at demonstrations organised by al-Muhajiroun, before it was banned.
The group, which has changed names a number of times, was banned in the UK in 2010. A study suggested that in the preceding 12 years, 18 per cent of Islamic extremists convicted of terror offences in the UK had current or former links with it.
A resident who lives near a terraced house where Choudary was believed to have lived in Walthamstow, east London, said the preacher and his family moved out about a week ago.
She said Choudary had lived there for around two years and claimed there was police activity at the weekend after he left.
The woman, who did not wish to be named, said: ‘There were police cars and officers walking around. I can't say whether they actually went in.’
Derek Rayner, a retired painter and decorator who has lived on the street for 50 years, said of Choudary: ‘I was very much aware he was living in the street.
Map: Counter-terrorism police were searching 18 addresses across London, and one in Stoke-on-Trent
‘I didn't know much about him, other than what I read in the papers. He kept himself to himself. It was noticeable that there were comings and goings.‘
Sometimes you wouldn't see him for a couple of weeks. Then when he was back, you would see him walking up and down the road.’
He said he stopped speaking to Choudary following comments he reportedly made about murdered soldier Lee Rigby and ISIS militants.
‘I used to speak to him to just say good morning but having seen the things that he had been saying... I won't give him the time of day now.’
He said he had not seen the cleric for around a week. ‘I wasn't totally sure he had moved out - I thought he might have just moved out while they were doing the house up.
‘They have totally gutted the house. I have seen him moving stuff out. I wasn't sure if it was going to be permanent or just temporary. ‘
He said he had not seen any police activity but added: ‘I have been informed there was a lot of police presence here over the last week. My neighbour said there has been police cars coming up and down, policemen knocking on his door apparently.’
Radical cleric Anjem Choudary is on the verge of becoming a household name.
The 47-year-old lawyer-turned-self-styled preacher is often heard making provocative and controversial comments on sensitive issues of national security.
Most recently, the East London-based Islamist told reporters he does not ‘feel sorry’ for British IS hostage Alan Henning and labelled the terror network’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as ‘prince of the believers’.
Scotland Yard’s Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick previously revealed police officers were constantly assessing whether any of Choudary’s proclamations were criminal, but later added: ‘It is fair to say that many so-called preachers of hate are very familiar with criminal law.’
Choudary, who is of Pakistani descent, studied law at Guildford, before moving to London to teach English as a second language.
After becoming a lawyer and completing his legal qualifications, Choudary became chairman of the Society of Muslim Lawyers. He was later removed from the roll of solicitors in 2002.
He later embraced radical Islamism and co-founded the extremist organisation al-Muhajiroun, working with the Islamist militant leader Omar Bakri Muhammad.
Among his most controversial moves were plans to stage an anti-Western march under his now-banned group Islam4UK through Wootton Bassett, at a time when the Wiltshire town was famous for honouring service personnel killed in Afghanistan. He caused great distress to the town’s residents but the plan never came to fruition.
And he has during numerous interviews over the last 10 years applauded the 9/11 terrorists, refused to condemn the 7/7 bombings in London and blamed the murder of soldier Lee Rigby on British foreign policy.
Islamist fanatics Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, who were both jailed earlier this year for the brutal slaying of Fusilier Rigby, were both seen at demonstrations organised by al-Muhajiroun. Choudary admitted he knew Adebolajo, who was pictured beside him at a rally in 2007.
A report from anti-extremism campaigners Hope Not Hate warned Choudary was wrongly seen as ‘a figure of fun’ and warned al-Muhajiroun was the ‘single biggest gateway to terrorism in recent British history’.
Choudary at the time said al-Muhajiroun has been active since the 1990s meaning that a lot of people will have come into contact with the group but denied any involvement in atrocities.
Al-Muhajiroun has a complicated history and has taken on a number of alternative names, in a bid to dodge its proscribed organisation status, such as Islam4UK, Muslims Against Crusades and Need4Khilafah.
One of the group’s most provocative statements was to celebrate the 9/11 extremists as ‘the Magnificent 19’.
Earlier this week, Choudary turned his attention to the capture of aid worker Alan Henning, saying he did not ‘feel sorry for him’.
ISIS militants threatened to behead the 47-year-old in a video, which also showed the murder of another British man, David Haines.
Choudary told reporters: ‘Rather than focus on Mr Henning, what they could do, the British Government, is focus on their own actions. Why are they not releasing Muslim people they are holding?
‘If they stop the oppression against Muslims, Mr Henning could easily be returned home.’