Armed police stage anti-terror training exercise at shopping centre

Armed police have held an anti-terror training exercise at one of Europe's biggest shopping centres.

Northumbria Police tested its firearms team's skills in the early hours of Wednesday when the intu Metrocentre in Gateshead was closed.

The operation, which was not staged in response to any specific threat, also involved other emergency services and the local authority.

Assistant Chief Constable Darren Best said it was routine to hold these types of exercise.

He said: "The national terror threat remains at 'Severe' and recent events across the continent and in the country show that we need to ensure we are prepared in the event that something does happen in our region.

"It is important that we continue to test our emergency response procedures to ensure the safety of our local communities."

The area around the shopping centre beside the A1 was tightly controlled and police said there was no impact on the public.

Simon Swallow, head of resilience at North East Ambulance Service, said: "This was a great opportunity to test how we all work together in a major incident and without intu we couldn't have created as realistic a scenario to work with."

Gavin Prior, general manager intu Metrocentre, said: "This training, planning and preparation to deal with all eventualities is essential and we had no hesitation allowing them to use our facilities for their exercise while the centre was closed."

- PA

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