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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Britain Goes on Health Alert After Police Find Ricin Toxin

LONDON -- Britons, readying for possible war with Iraq as reserve troops were mobilized, were troubled by fears of a battle at home Wednesday after the seizure of the deadly toxin ricin sparked fears of a looming terror campaign.

Anti-terrorist police said they were questioning six north African men after seizing a small amount of the lethal poison in raids in north London at the weekend.

As security agents worked to establish whether any of the toxin had been distributed around Britain or abroad, doctors and hospitals around the country were put on alert for symptoms.

"Something like this ricin find scares me far more than thinking of our boys off fighting on foreign soil," IT worker Andrew Simpson, 30, said during an informal vox pop.

"But we are used to threats in London. The price of living in a major financial center is that you are a huge target."

Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon said the arrests were a "very considerable success" for security services but denied Britain needed to work on defending the home front rather than attacking Iraq.

"It's part of our overall effort to ensure the world is a safer and more secure place," he told BBC television.

Ricin, which some experts have linked to al-Qaida, is one of the world's deadliest poisons and is easily derived from the castor oil bean. There is no known antidote.

Developed during World War II by the United States and its allies, it has a long history of use in international espionage but experts say it is hard to use as an agent of mass death.

Inhaled, injected or ingested, less than a milligram of ricin would kill a 70 kilogram man, causing flu-like symptoms before death. Its best-known victim was Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov, assassinated by a jab to the leg with a poison-tipped umbrella in London in 1978.