Daily Record : Easter terror plot foiled by cops after Bob Quick memo blunder

Friday, April 10, 2009

Easter terror plot foiled by cops after Bob Quick memo blunder

Kevin Schofield | April 10, 2009

ANTI-TERRORIST police forced to swoop after a secret memo blunder say they foiled a plot to bomb Easter shoppers.

Suspects were allegedly seen filming at Manchester shops as intercepted emails hinted a strike was imminent.

A police source said: "These men weren't tourists. Taking pictures was suspicious."

Police had to bring the raids forward by 12 hours on Wednesday when anti-terror chief Bob Quick was pictured carrying documents that gave details of the plan.

Twelve men were arrested - but Quick, 49, later resigned.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown yesterday praised police for taking urgent and decisive action. He said: "We have been investigating a major terrorist plot.

"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.

"A number of people suspected of it have been arrested."

Detectives believe terrorists were planning to strike at Easter, targeting Manchester shopping centres.

Undercover cops allegedly watched suspects taking photos and filming at some of the city's busiest spots.

A series of internet exchanges between suspects also suggested that a terror strike was imminent.

A police source said: "Several dates listed on emails indicated a strong chance they may have moved in the next 10 days." Operation Pathway, the codename for the raids, was brought forward after Quick was pictured carrying top-secret documents into 10 Downing Street He resigned as assistant commissioner yesterday and apologised to Brown.

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

Security sources believe a UK-based terror ring who support 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.

Peter Fahy, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, 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.

"The threat level is already at a heightened state. 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." Fahy said 11 of those arrested were Pakistani nationals.

Brown said he would be speaking to Pakistan's president Asif Ali Zardari, urging him to crack down on suspected terrorist links between his country and Britain.

He added: "What happens in the next few days is a matter for 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."

Brown said he had thanked Quick for his years of service. The PM added: "He has made his apologies and was very concerned that an apology was made for a blunder that happened."

Quick has been replaced as head of Scotland Yard's specialist operations wing by colleague John Yates.