Clitheroe Advertiser : Wild 'terror plot' rumours are entirely unfounded

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Two arrested in Clitheroe are among nine terrorism suspects now released

Ten Pakistani nationals face deportation

April 22, 2009

NINE of the 12 men arrested in counter-terrorism raids across the North West on April 8th have been released without charge, but are likely to be deported.

It is understood that the two men arrested in Clitheroe are among those nine Pakistani nationals.

All 12 men were arrested in synchronised raids at addresses in Liverpool, Manchester and at Clitheroe's new Homebase store, where the two men had been temporarily employed as security guards, supplied by an outside firm. They had been staying at a guest house in Pimlico Road, which was also searched by police forensic teams.

Of the 12 arrested, 11 were Pakistani nationals, 10 were in the UK on student visas and one was from Britain. One of them, an 18-year-old, was previously handed over to the UK Border Agency for possible deportation and two are still being questioned by police – the Briton and one of the Pakistani nationals.

It is understood the two men arrested in Clitheroe were in the UK on student visas, despite working for the security firm. Police have stressed that they had no connection with Clitheroe other than that they were staying in the town for the duration of their work in the run-up to the opening of the new Homebase store, which took place as planned the morning after the arrests.

Commenting on the release of the nine men, a Home Office spokesman said: "We are seeking to remove these individuals on grounds of national security. The government's highest priority is to protect public safety. Where a foreign national poses a threat to this country we will seek to exclude or to deport, where this is appropriate."

However, a lawyer for three of the men has said thety should be allowed to remain in the UK to complete their studies. In a statement, the lawyer, Mohammed Ayub, said: "After 13 days in custody, during which no evidence of any wrongdoing was disclosed, they have now been released without charge.

"Our clients have no criminal history, they were here lawfully on student visas and all were pursuing their studies and working part-time. Our clients are neither extremists nor terrorists."

A spokesman for Greater Manchester Police, which led the joint counter-terrorism operation involving three forces, said searches were continuing at a property in Cheetham Hill, Manchester.

The spokesman added: "These arrests were carried out after a number of UK agencies gathered information that indicated a potential risk to public safety. Officers are continuing to review a large amount of information gathered as part of this investigation.

"Investigations of this nature are extremely complex. We remain grateful to the support and co-operation of the communities affected."

The raids had been planned for the early hours of Thursday April 9th, but had to be brought forward and carried out in broad daylight after details of the operation were revealed in a blunder by the UK's top anti-terrorism police officer, Assistant Commissioner Bob Quick. He was photographed visiting Downing Street with details of the operation clearly visible on a document carried under his arm.

He has since resigned, but Home Secretary Jacqui Smith told MPs this week that the blunder had not damaged the effectiveness of the operation, despite it being hastily brought forward by several hours.