Click Liverpool : Operation Pathway - Liverpool terror alert - forensic searches

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Operation Pathway - Liverpool terror alert - forensic searches

by John Harkin | April 9, 2009 | updated April 10, 2009

Police forensic teams have been carrying-out inch-by-inch searches of homes in Liverpool connected with the terroror arrests in 'Operation Pathway.'

A pair of men were arrested in Liverpool as part of the anti-terrorism operation rapidly mounted by police across the North West after a security gaffe by top cop Bob Quick.

Neighbours said that four men were arrested by police who stormed a red-brick three-bedroomed Victorian terraced house at 51 Cedar Grove, Toxteth.

Unemployed Antonia Croft, 18. who lives in Cedar Grove, said: "I was sitting in the front room watching telly and I heard the crack of breaking glass.

"I ran to the front door to see what was happening and the street was swarming with police armed with machine guns.

"They were shouting to the residents to 'Get inside and stay away from the windows'.

"It was terrifying. I saw the police march four men in handcuffs out of the house with blankets over their heads."

Residents said that police also entered a house at 46 Cedar Grove where the police also smashed their way in through the front bay window.

Neighbour Leonard Mottram, 39, said: "Both ends of the road were sealed-off with vans and everything was deadly silent for a few seconds.

"Then they smashed the windows of two houses at the same time and stormed-in.

"It was like something out of an action movie. I honestly thought they were filming.

"I looked out of the front window and was expecting to see Arnold Scwarzenegger or Russell Crowe come bursting out of one of the police vans."

Mr Mottram said the residents at the two homes were of Asian or arab origin and in their early twenties.

He added: "We have never spoken to them although they have never casued any trouble and would give you a smile if you saw them outside the house.

"The last few weeks they have spent quite a lot of time outside in the street working on their car.

"It's a black Vaxhall hatchback and they spent a lot of time with the bonnet up but they never asked for any help."

At the Liverpool John Moores University around the same time two men were being pinned down and held at gunpoint by armed officers outside the Aldham Robarts Library in Maryland Street.

Witnesses described how police chased one man and immobilised at least one with a Taser gun, before pinning him to the ground.

Students who were in the building told of how they were instructed to move away from the windows and interior glass walls while the operation continued.

Armed officers held the men at gunpoint while around 200 people were kept inside the modern building and an exclusion zone was set up by police.

Andy Garner, 21, who is studying journalism at the university said: "I'd just popped out of the building to get a coffee.

"As I was returning I saw about twenty police with what looked like machine guns swarming around the entrance.

"We were told to stay back and held a good fifty yeards away down the street and no-one was allowed in or out of nearly an hour.

"During that time more uniformed officers arrived and got the whole area condoned-off.

"We had no idea what was going on - there were all kinds of rumours that someone had planted a bomb."

The Liverpool arrests came as a number of properties were raided in the Cheetham Hill area of Manchester and at a guest house in Clitheroe, Lancashire.

The North West Counter-Terrorism Unit, working with Merseyside Police, GMP and Lancashire Constabulary, said 12 men has been arrested under the Terrorism Act.

Several hundred officers were involved the operation, including armed officers who were deployed during some of the arrests.

Detective Chief Superintendent Tony Porter, head of the North West CTU said: "Today's action is part of a continuing investigation and we have acted on intelligence received.

"Although the operation is ongoing, this phase is still in its very early stages, so the information we can release about it is limited."

Police were also searching a flat above an off-licence in Earle Road, Wavertree, about a mile from the other address in Cedar Grove.

A pair of Merseyside Police vehicles - one a 'Mobile Police Station' and the second a 'Matrix Team' van. The Matrix Team is the force's specialist firearms and serious crimes squad.

The teams were searching the rundown flat above the 'Saleh Off-Licence' at 175a Earle Road, a busy local area shopping street packed with take-aways.

The off licence is next door to St Hugh's RC Primary School where the 150 pupils are off on Easter Holidays.

Locals said the flat was occupied two men Asian men who had moved in last year and had paid six months rent in advance.

Pharmacist Phil Jones, who works in a nearby chemist's shop said: "It was just a normal afternoon when suddenly a SWAT team came bursting-in through the door.

"It was terrifying and the customers were screaming. There were two of us as staff and three customers.

"They told everyone to calm down to stay inside the shop.

"They sealed-off the street outside and there were police everywhere wearing body armour and all of them with Heckler and Koch automatic rifles.

"The customers were frightened and asked if they could leave through the back door but we all stayed where we were. We were trapped for forty minutes not knowing what was really going on."