Lancashire Evening Post : 12 arrested in al-Qaida terror swoops

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

12 arrested in al-Qaida terror swoops

By Matthew Squires | April 8, 2009

Up to 100 police officers - some armed with guns - swooped on the Homebase store in Clitheroe at 5.30pm on Wednesday and handcuffed two uniformed guards in the foyer.

One witness said: "There was police everywhere, some of them had guns.

"They walked in, handcuffed the two guys and put them in the back of their van. No-one knew what was happening."

Police also raided the nearby Brooklyn Guest House in Pimlico Road where the two men, believed to be Asian, were staying.

The Lancashire Evening Post understands the two suspects are employed by a private security firm and have only just started work at the store, which was due to open for the first time on Thursday.

A total of 12 men - all aged between late teens and 41 - have now been arrested on suspicion of having links with al-Qaida after raids at eight properties in Cheetham Hill in Manchester, Liverpool and those in Clitheroe.

Ten of the suspects are Pakistan-born nationals on student visas and one is a UK-born British national.

The counter-terrorism raids - codenamed Operation Pathway - had to be brought forward after senior counter-terrorism officer, Assistant Commissioner Bob Quick was caught on camera clutching a bundle of 'secret' documents as he arrived in Downing Street for a briefing on Wednesday.

Mr Quick has resigned after his security blunder threatened the anti-terror operation, London Mayor Boris Johnson said on Thursday morning.

Stunned residents have told how anti-terror police stormed a DIY store and led away the two security guards.

Minutes later, two Asian guards were brought out, handcuffed and led into waiting police vehicles.

An eyewitness said: "About 50 vehicles filled the car park and the police stormed in and quickly brought the two men out.

"They seemed to know who they were looking for. It looked a well-planned operation."

Officers were later seen removing bin bags full of evidence from the store.

Police simultaneously raided the Brooklyn Guest House in Pimlico Road where the two men - who are not from Lancashire - were staying.

'Sleepy market town'

One resident of Pimlico Road, Adam Howard, 38, said: "At about 5.40 I saw a blue van slow down when it got to the B&B and a silver Ford S-Max behind it and then all the police just ran across the road.

"The door was already open and some of them went round the back.

"I noticed the curtains were closed in the upstairs right hand window but about a minute after the police went in they were open and the light was on.

"I didn't see them bring anyone out but there were a lot of police around and a lot of people in suits. Then the search units arrived.

"In a place like Clitheroe things like this don't happen, it is a sleepy market town."

Police launched swoops at eight addresses in total - including Liverpool John Moores University and two other Merseyside addresses and four properties in Cheetham Hill, Manchester.

Student Daniel Taylor was on the second floor of the building when he heard shouting outside.

He said: "When I looked I saw a man on the floor. Police were shouting at him and one of the officers had what looked like a machine gun pointed right into his head."

In Manchester, two men were arrested at an internet cafe and shop on Cheetham Hill Road.

The raids come just two months after a nine men travelling to join a convoy taking supplies to Gaza were stopped on the M65 near Preston in an anti-terror operation.

The men were later released without charge.

Last month a meeting between the Asian community in Lancashire and Lancashire police was held - but police refused to apologise over the operation.