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Five Brits have been arrested in the United Arab Emirates under suspicion of involvement in an Internet drug smuggling ring.

UAE, which observes Islamic Sharia law, takes drug-related crimes very seriously. If found guilty the group could face execution - the maximum penalty for drug dealing. Two UK citizens are currently serving four-year terms in the UAE for possession, after being caught with three grams of cannabis at Abu Dhabi Airport in 1998.

The head of the anti drugs squad in Ras al-Khaimah, Major Jamal Al Tair, said that the arrests were made after informants let his officers know about a large shipment of marijuana was to be smuggled into the country.

An Australian woman and two Arab nationals were also arrested in the series of raids.

The UK foreign office confirmed last night that the group was being held for questioning about "drug-related offences." All five have been offered legal assistance following visits from consular staff.

The names of those involved will only be released if they are charged with an offence, the UAE authorities said. ®

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