Police who raided Finsbury Park mosque on Monday last week found protective suits designed for use during a chemical warfare attack, according to a report in a Sunday newspaper.

Scotland Yard announced on Thursday this week that a stun gun, a blank firing imitation firearm and one CS gas canister were uncovered during the search on Monday morning of the Finsbury Park Mosque in north London.

They also revealed the discovery of a large quantity of documents - including passports, identity cards and credit cards - which had been taken away for examination.

But the Sunday Times has today published claims that the Met witheld details of so-called NBC (nuclear, biological and chemical) suits found at the mosque, amid fears that "any suggestion that the mosque may have been involved with chemical weapons could inflame racial tensions".

NBC suits, which can be obtained easily over the internet for around £20, could provide protection both in the event of an attack, and also in a chemical laboratory.

According to the Sunday Times, the suits have been handed over to forensic scientists to be examined for traces of ricin or other chemicals.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said : "Evidence gathered during recent counter-terrorist investigations in London and elsewhere has uncovered links between the premises and suspected terrorist activity.

"There is nothing to suggest that chemical substances are on the premises and there is no suggestion at this stage that there is any risk to the public.

"The operation was not against the mosque itself or the many people who go there on a regular basis to pray.

"It was aimed specifically at individuals who have been supporting or engaging in suspected terrorist activity from within the building.

"Police believe that these premises have played a role in the recruitment of suspected terrorists and in supporting their activity both here and abroad.

"The operation is part of continuing and extensive inquiries by the Anti-Terrorist Branch into alleged terrorist activity in London and elsewhere in the UK."

Seven men were arrested during the raid on Finsbury Park mosque, of whom six remain in custody for offences including possession of CS gas, and immigration offences.

Only two are being held under anti-terrorism legislation.

January 26, 2003 15:30