British Arrest Three in 7/7 London Transit Bombing Probe

Threwas a massive breakthrough in the investigation into the July 7 London bombings last night when police made their first significant arrests in connection with the suicide attacks.

In a dramatic development, three men were arrested by Scotland Yard's counter terror detectives in the north of England, two of them as they were about to leave the country.

The two, aged 23 and 30, were arrested shortly before 1pm at Manchester airport as they prepared to board a flight to Pakistan.

They had gone through passport control and were airside in the terminal building at the time of the arrests.

The third man, aged 26, was held at his home in Leeds just after 4pm. Officers also carried out a series of raids on houses in the Beeston area of Leeds, where three of the July 7 bombers had strong connections.

Last night, Beeston once again appeared to be the focus of the police investigation into the 7/7 attacks, in which 52 innocent people were killed.

Police have been investigating how the four suicide bombers, who exploded rucksack devices on three Tube trains and a bus, were supported and financed.

Senior officers have always said that their support network was still at large.

One of the houses raided was in Colwyn Road, the same road as where the Aldgate bomber, Shehzad Tanweer, lived.

The other four were in Cardinal Road, Firth Mount, Tempest Road, and Rowland Place, West Yorkshire Police confirmed.

Searches were continuing last night, but police sources insisted that they were not expecting to find bombs or bomb making equipment there.

All three arrested men are understood to be from Leeds. By 7pm, had arrived at London's high security Paddington Green police station. The third was en route and expected to arrive later last night.

Interviews are likely to start today and under new anti-terror laws, police can hold them for a maximum of 28 days.

The men were arrested on suspicion of the commission, preparation, or instigation of acts of terrorism under the Terrorism Act 2000.

A Scotland Yard spokeswoman said last night: "Since July 7 2005, when 52 people were murdered, detectives have continued to pursue many lines of inquiry both here in the UK and overseas."

Speaking outside the house in Firth Mount, Chief Superintendent Mark Milsom said: "It's important to stress a few things.

"First of all, the people have been arrested in connection with the events that happened back in London two years ago.

"This is not a new inquiry.

"The other thing tostress is thatwhat we're looking for at these addresses at this moment is not something that is going to threaten or put anybody at risk."

He went on: "We will be as open as we can, not just now, but as things go forward in the next day or two."

Mr Milsom added: "There will be more officers patrolling in the area and visiting people to reassure them, but they are very much local neighbourhood policing officers."