Daily Mirror : A Big Terror Plot

Friday, April 10, 2009


Brown backs police for moving quickly to protect the public

By Paul Byrne and Laura Armstrong | April 10, 2009

Gordon Brown yesterday praised police for taking urgent and decisive action to foil a terrorist spectacular in the wake of the secret memo fiasco.

Mr Brown said: "We have been investigating a major terrorist plot. Our first concern is always the safety of the public. It is right we took the urgent action that we did.

"We are dealing with a very big terrorist plot.

We have been following it for some time. There were a number of people who are suspected of it who have been arrested. That police operation was successful." Ten of the twelve men arrested in raids across the North West were Pakistani nationals - and most of them were here on student visas.

A Home Office spokesman said all students applying to come to Britain were checked against lists of suspected terrorists.

But Sir Andrew Green of campaign group Migrationwatch UK said: "Student visas have long been a gaping hole in our border controls which the government has chosen to ignore, partly because of the fees that foreign students pay. Applicants from countries of concern like Pakistan and North Africa should be given a full interview by a UK-based visa officer and only admitted if they can demonstrate that they are genuine.

"Last year more than 10,000 students were admitted from Pakistan with what are clearly inadequate checks." Anti-terror officers who swooped on the 12 believe terrorists were planning to strike at Easter - possibly targeting Manchester shopping centres. They are believed to be the Trafford Centre, the Arndale Centre, the nearby Birdcage nightclub and St Ann's Square.

Undercover police allegedly watched suspects taking photos and using camcorders to film at some of the city's busiest spots.

Officers also believe a series of internet exchanges between suspects suggested a terror strike was imminent. It is thought the terrorists planned to use a car bomb.

A police source said: "Even though specific targets were never mentioned in the chatter, these men were not tourists and taking these pictures was thought to be suspicious.

"Several dates listed on emails indicated a strong chance they may have moved in the next 10 days." But Operation Pathway, the codename for the swoop on the suspects, had to be brought forward by about 12 hours after anti-terror chief Bob Quick was pictured carrying top secret briefing documents into 10 Downing Street on Wednesday.

Mr Quick yesterday resigned as assistant commissioner and apologised personally to the Prime Minister.

During the raids on premises in Merseyside, Manchester and Lancashire on Wednesday police recovered maps and other documents relating to the region.

Security sources believe a UK-based terror ring that supports al-Qaeda had been planning an atrocity for months.

They think the actual attack would have been carried out by a suicide team flown in from Pakistan. Twelve men - the youngest a teenager, the oldest, 41 - were still being questioned last night.

The Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police confirmed the raids had been brought forward because of Mr Quick's blunder.

Peter Fahy said: "What happened essentially meant we have brought the matter forward but it would have happened in the next 24 hours in any event. Our number one concern has got to be the safety of people." Mr Fahy said police had not uncovered a threat to a particular location, although the investigation was still ongoing. He added: "Clearly, there's been some speculation about certain locations, particularly in the North West, concerning this investigation.

"The threat level is already at a heightened state because of what is perceived and evaluated to be a threat to this country. There are no plans to raise that threat level any higher.

"Nobody anywhere in this country should feel any more afraid today as a result of the action we have taken." Mr Brown said he would be speaking to Pakistan's President Zardari to urge him to crack down on suspected terror links between his country and Britain.

He added: "We know that there are links between terrorists in Britain and terrorists in Pakistan. That is an important issue for us to follow through and that's why I will be talking to President Zardari about what Pakistan can do to help us in the future.

"I think we must not forget that the police have been successful in carrying out their arrests. And, of course, what happens in the next few days is a matter for the police.

"But we had to act pre-emptively to ensure the safety of the public and the safety of the public is the paramount and utmost concern in all that we do." Mr Brown said he had thanked Mr Quick for his years of service. He added: "He has made his apologies and was concerned an apology was made for a blunder that happened."


Two men were arrested by armed officers at the Homebase store in Clitheroe. Locals said they had been staying at the Brooklyn Guest House half a mile away and worked as security guards, supplied by Essex firm Manpower Direct.


Four addresses were raided in Cheetham Hill.

Forensics continue to work in Galsworthy Avenue, Cheetham Hill Road, Greenhill Road, Abercarn Close and Esmond Road.

A Galsworthy Avenue resident said two men were arrested at a lodging house.

Two men were held at a property in Cheetham Hill Road. A cyber cafe in the street was also searched.

Police tape surrounded a silver Rover MG ZR outside a raided semi-detached property in Abercarn Close.

Behind the gearstick was a newspaper clipping of an Asian man in uniform.

Neighbours said three Pakistani students had been living in Esmond Road for a short time.

A flat above a barber's shop in Greenhill Road, was also searched.


Police raided a flat in Earle Road and two terraced homes, numbers 46 and 51, in Cedar Grove, Toxteth.

Earle Road property owner Ali Shalash said the flat, above an offlicence, was used by up to four Pakistani accounting students who had been there for three weeks. Police said one man was arrested.

Three men were arrested in Cedar Grove during two raids at about 5.30pm and 10pm.

At John Moores University, students said two men aged in their 20s were held by armed police in dramatic scenes outside the library.

Police later said one man was arrested.


A further arrest took place on the M602, details of which are not yet known. The motorway runs from Eccles to Manchester.