British police bring forward terror raid after security breach

9th April 2009, Comments 0 comments

Hundreds of officers arrested 12 people in evening raids across England's north-west, police said, which media reports said had long been planned but had to be brought forward after key documents were accidentally made public.

London -- British police were forced to bring forward a major anti-terror operation Wednesday after a security breach in which a top officer was caught on camera displaying sensitive documents, reports said.

Hundreds of officers arrested 12 people in evening raids across England's north-west, police said, which media reports said had long been planned but had to be brought forward after key documents were accidentally made public.

Manchester police said several hundreds of officers were involved in the raids, which saw eight premises searched, as part of an ongoing investigation.

"The north-west counter-terrorism unit, working with Merseyside Police, Greater Manchester Police and Lancashire Constabulary, has today... arrested 12 men under the Terrorism Act," a spokesman said.

Britain's top counter-terrorism policeman, Assistant Commissioner Bob Quick of London's Scotland Yard, was earlier photographed clutching a raft of documents as he arrived at Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Downing Street office.

A document turned outwards was clearly visible and was said to contain full details about planned operation, in which the domestic intelligence agency MI5 was also reportedly involved.

Quick has apologised for the breach to police chief Paul Stephenson, a Scotland Yard spokesman said, adding he "accepts he made a mistake on leaving a sensitive document on open view and deeply regrets it".

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith praised the officers involved in the operation but said the decision to act "was an operational matter for the police and the security service" and she and Brown were kept fully informed.

A senior lawmaker with the main opposition Conservatives, Chris Grayling, described the security breach as "an extraordinary and very alarming lapse".

"It's the kind of error that Britain's most senior anti-terrorist officer simply can't afford to make, and it will lead to serious questions about his judgment and about his ability to do his job properly," he said.

Detective Chief Superintendent Tony Porter, the head of the north-west counter-terrorism unit, said: "Today's action is part of a continuing investigation and we have acted on intelligence received.

"Although the operation is ongoing, this phase is still in its very early stages."

Up to 100 officers swooped on a DIY store in Clitheroe, in the north-west county of Lancashire, and arrested two security guards, while witnesses at John Moore University in Liverpool also reported seeing another two arrests.

"I was on the second floor of the library when I heard a lot of shouting outside," said Daniel Taylor, a journalism student in Liverpool.

"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, it was all very dramatic."

Britain has been on high security alert ever since the July 2005 attacks in London, which killed 56 people including four suicide bombers, and failed car bomb attacks in London and Glasgow in June 2007.

The security threat remains on its second highest level, severe. MI5 chief Jonathan Evans said in January that Al-Qaeda leaders based in Pakistan still intended to mount attacks on Britain -- and had the capacity to do so.

AFP/Expatica

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