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CNN AMERICAN MORNING WITH PAULA ZAHN

Ricin Raid

Aired January 8, 2003 - 09:02   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: We got some new information unfolding this morning in the discovery of the deadly poison Ricin in London. In London, six suspects are in custody. There could still be more men at large.
Let's check in with Nic Robertson who joins us from London with more on who the men are and what they may have been planning.

Good morning, Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Paula.

The latest we are hearing from European intelligence officials here is that the British police were led to this apartment in north London and to other apartments they raided Sunday morning by a tip-off from French security services. That raid was conducted by British antiterrorist police in conjunction with British security services, as well.

Another thing we are learning from the intelligence services as well is that they were, all six men were Algerians. Now, we also understand that none of them had been in Britain for longer than three months. It is also possible that other members or other people affiliated with them could have been on a reconnaissance mission to Britain before perhaps to the London area.

There is a lot of concern in British authorities here, particularly the police at this time, they believe in this apartment in north London was a rudimentary laboratory to make ricin. They believe it is possible, they don't know for sure, but it is possible there could be other operatives out there. They could also have ricin in their possession.

Now, the police are telling the public in Britain to be very alert, but not to be alarmed, just be aware in public places.

ZAHN: So what are they telling you about these other operatives that might be out there, and what connections they might have to any official terror group?

ROBERTSON: We're getting no details on that at this time. Now, it is known, it is very easy to learn how to make ricin. That sort of information can be downloaded from the Internet, and it's been possible for years. We also know that in Al Qaeda safehouses in Kabul, in other places in Afghanistan, documents were retrieved indicating that Al Qaeda was aware, trained its operative in how to make ricin and what dosages were appropriate for use for killing a child, for killing a grown adult.

But the British police not giving away any information. They are being held and being questioned by British antiterrorists police, and they have the powers to hold them for another four days before they need to move the proceedings forward, before they need to charge them -- Paula.

ZAHN: You lived there a long time. What is the level of concern among folks you talk to that make up the British public?

ROBERTSON: The concern is high. I was listening to people just last night, and, really, they weren't able to articulate the name ricin, and listen to do a group of people trying to explain it to others, what ricin was. But when they woke up this morning, it's all over the newspapers here, several lead articles on the find, the discovery, on the police fears, on the alerts put out to the health services, the doctors here, and on exactly what ricin is, derived from the castor bean, that it can be ingested, injected, all of these details for the public being made very aware, and, in particular, being made aware of what the symptoms are, all being in contact with ricin.

ZAHN: Well, the fear is understandable. Nic Robertson, thanks so much.

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