Asian Image : 'There was nothing suspicious about them'

Thursday, April 09, 2009

'There was nothing suspicious about them'

April 9, 2009

The owner of a flat at the centre of an alleged terror plot described his tenants as “very nice people, gentle and polite”.

Businessman Ali Shalash, whose flat on Earle Road, Liverpool, was stormed by armed police yesterday spoke of his surprise.

At least one of the residents was arrested at the scene, witnesses said, as police across the North West raided properties thought to be linked in a plot.

Mr Shalash, who owns M&Q Building Services, said he believed the students he let the flat to were from Pakistan.

Speaking from his office in nearby Smithdown Road, he said: “The tenants are students and they came to me, they are very nice guys.

”They’ve been there for about three weeks.

”They paid the deposit in cash and took a six-month lease.

”They spoke good English and just said they were students. I didn’t ask where, I think they said they were doing accounting.

”They signed a normal tenancy agreement and went through the normal procedure.

”I took all their details, including their passport details.

”I think they were from Pakistan. I deal with one of them but I think there might be three or four of them in there.

”I have been in the flat many times in the last few weeks to do things like fix the washing machine.

”It’s been a normal service, just like any other tenants.

”There was nothing about them that was suspicious in any way.

”They are very nice people, gentle and polite.

”Let’s see what happens. Maybe it’s a mistake.”

Two homes on Cedar Grove in Toxteth, Liverpool, were raided by police yesterday.

Neighbours said officers dressed in black and wearing balaclavas stormed into No 51 at around 5.30pm.

After around 30 minutes, four men with their hands cuffed behind their backs were taken outside and put into police cars before being driven off.

At around 10pm another team of officers raided No 46, across the street, and two men were brought out of that house.

Today there was still significant police presence at Cedar Grove and both houses remained sealed off.

Teams of forensic officers were seen going in and out of both properties.

A neighbour, who did not wish to be named, said: “I heard bang, bang, bang from the back of the house at around teatime last night.

”When I looked outside the window, about 10 armed police were going into the front of the house.

”The police were dressed in all black and were wearing balaclavas and forensic gloves.

”After a long time, maybe half an hour, the four men were brought out and put in cars.

”They were handcuffed and had their heads down.

”The whole street was sealed off then but things were quiet until about 10pm when No 46 was raided.

”Two men were brought out of that house.”

The neighbour said the four men had been living at No 51 for over a year and she would often see them working on their car, a blue or grey Nissan Micra which was taken away by police after the raid.

The men at No 46 moved in to that house around last Christmas, neighbours said.

Another neighbour said: “Some of the men would say hello to you when you saw them in the street and some of them would just never acknowledge you.

”They all knew each other but they never seemed to speak to any other residents.”

One of the suspects detained yesterday was in a flat above a barber’s shop in Greenhill Road, Cheetham Hill, Manchester. He was taken away at about 10.45pm.

Fazal Hussain, who works at the adjoining Khan International Travel Agents, said police officers took him away more than two hours after the property was initially raided.

Mr Hussain said: “I was watching the football when I got a phone call at about 8.15pm to say the door to the flats had been broken down by the police. I went round to switch off the alarm.”

The address in Greenhill Road is across the street from the Cyber Net Cafe, which was also raided yesterday.

Police said last night that the address was searched but did not confirm an arrest was made.

Officers were still standing guard today outside the other raid locations at Galsworthy Avenue, Abercarn Close, Esmond Road and the Cyber Net Cafe in Cheetham Hill Road.