Lancashire Telegraph : Anti-terror police finish Clitheroe search

Friday, April 10, 2009

Anti-terror police finish Clitheroe search

By Camilla Sutcliffe | April 10, 2009

ANTI-terror police investigating an alleged al Qaida terror plot in the North West last night finished their search of a Clitheroe guest house.

Police swooped on a Clitheroe DIY store on Wednesday and arrested two security guards suspected of links to al Qaida.

The men, who are not from East Lancashire, were working at the new Homebase store and staying at the town's Brooklyn Guest House, Pimlico Road.

They were arrested at 5.30pm in a series of swoops across the North West which saw another 10 held at homes, a cyber cafe and a university.

In East Lancashire, eye witnesses reported seeing scores of police cars arrive at the 25,000 sq ft store Homebase store, which is due to open tomorrow with the creation of 40 jobs.

It is understood police went inside the premises and detained two security guards.

Eyewitness David Cowgill said: “There were so many police cars, bikes and helicopters that we thought there had to be something like a robbery or something big going on right at that time.

“Later on it came on the news it was terror arrests.

“In the foyer of the store there must have been 20 police officers.

"It is going to be a good advert in a way for Homebase I suppose, but not the sort of thing you expect in Clitheroe.”

A woman who works nearby said: “There were loads of police speeding around the corner and they all went and parked around the garden centre end, running towards that way.

“At first there were a few riot vans and then a load of police arrived.

“We just heard they had arrested some security guards, but we were told anymore than that.”

By 6.30pm, just a solitary police van remained at the Homebase and officers' attention had switched to the Brooklyn Guest House.

Adam Howard, 38, a PR consultant, who lives opposite watched officers raid the B&B.

He said: “It was about 5.40pm. I was working at my desk and noticed a blue police van drive quite slowly past the window.

“It had a silver people carrier behind it.

“They both stopped outside the house and between 10 and 12 police officers all ran out towards the guest house.

“My first reaction was to shout for my wife and tell her to come and have a look.

“We then sat in the leather sofa in our bay window and watched it.

“Some of the officers ran to the back and some in the front.

"They did not have to break down the door.

“The officers were all wearing black and appeared to be armed with a black weapon, although I couldn't tell if it was a tasar or a gun.

“Shortly after it looked like search teams arrived.

“Outside the police were handing out leaflets explaining that arrests had been made in Clitheroe.

“It is not the sort of thing you expect in the quaint market town that Clitheroe is.”

Mark French, 51, of Pimlico Road, said: “It is hardly an everyday occurrence in Clitheroe.

"I don't know who was staying at the guest house, but dozens of police arrived.

“They were all over the place.

“It is a real shame for the owner of the guest house. She is very distressed.

“They have only been there a year or so but it has always been a nice guest house.”

A resident of Pimlico Road said: “Police officers have been going in and out all the time and nobody seems to be telling us what is happening.

“It is a real shame for the guest house owners who have done an awful lot of work doing it up.”

Clitheroe councillor and the borough's Liberal Democrat leader Allan Knox said: “It is shocking that something like this could happen in Clitheroe but it is reassuring that those arrested are not from the town.”

Local police have sought to reassure the community. Leaflets were handed out to residents explaining the action.

Chief Superintendent Andy Rhodes, divisional commander for Eastern Division which covers Clitheroe, said: “These arrests and subsequent searches of the address will be conducted with sensitivity and carried out as quickly as possible to ensure minimum impact on the areas concerned.

"However, these types of enquiries can be complex and may take time to resolve.

“It also means that we will be limited to what we can tell people.

“I would ask local residents to be patient with us and to be assured that we will keep them updated in relation to the investigation as and when we can by using local officers who they know and trust.”