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Oct 17, 1:13 PM EDT

UK police charge 5 over alleged London terror plot

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LONDON (AP) -- Five men appeared in court Friday over what prosecutors say was an alleged IS-inspired plot to shoot and kill police officers or soldiers on the streets of London.

Flanked by police officers in stab-proof vests, the men spoke only to confirm their names and addresses as they appeared briefly in a London courtroom.

Tarik Hassane, 21; Suhaib Majeed, 20; Nyall Hamlett, 24; and 21-year-old Momen Motasim are charged with preparing acts of terrorism between July 8 and Oct. 7. A fifth man, Nathan Cuffy, 25, is charged with firearms offenses.

The men were all arrested in London over the past two weeks.

The terrorism charges include taking an oath of allegiance to the banned Islamic State group, procuring a Baikal handgun and ammunition, and using Google Street View to conduct reconnaissance on a police station and an army barracks in west London.

Police also say the men "considered, discussed and decided to act on the fatwa of al- Adnani." Abu Mohammed al-Adnani is the spokesman for the IS militants.

Police also allege that the gang retained an image of two Metropolitan Police officers and possessed jihadi material, including articles with graphic images of the beheading of American-Israeli journalist Steven Sotloff.

Judge Emma Arbuthnot ordered the suspects held in custody until their next hearing on Oct. 27.

The charges came as Scotland Yard said it had made 218 terrorism arrests so far this year amid "exceptionally high numbers of counter-terrorism investigations."

Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, who heads counter-terror operations for the police, said Friday that the volume, range and pace of counter-terrorism activity had undergone "a step-change."

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