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BRITISH police have freed six men without charge after they were arrested on suspicion of preparing a terrorist attack linked to the state visit of Pope Benedict XVI.
"Six men who were arrested under the Terrorism Act 2000 on Friday, 17 September, were all released without charge late on Saturday night and early this morning,'' Scotland Yard said said in a statement.
Counter-terrorism police in London had swooped at dawn on Friday to detain five men aged between 26 and 50 who worked as street cleaning contractors in central London, while a sixth man was arrested later the same day.
The men were street cleaners employed in the Westminster district of London, where the pope spent much of Friday and Saturday, the local authority confirmed.
Reports said the men were all of North African origin but there was no confirmation from police.
"We never attributed much importance to these arrests,'' Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told AFP earlier Saturday.
The 83-year-old Pope was "very calm'', he said, and the four-day trip was "taking place smoothly''.
Britain's Sunday Mirror tabloid quoted a police source as saying that the men were arrested after they were overheard joking in a staff canteen about blowing up the pope with a rocket-propelled grenade.
The pope is set to fly from London to Birmingham today for the beatification mass of John Henry Newman, a convert from Anglicanism to Catholicism, before returning to Rome.