A gang of five terror suspects arrested outside the Sellafield nuclear plant hours after news of the killing of Osama bin Laden broke were expected to be quizzed by UK counter-terrorism officers today.
It comes a day after police raided four houses in east London linked to the suspects, who were detained during a vehicle stop-check near the nuclear installation in west Cumbria.
Reports that the five men had been filming the Sellafield site and are all Bangladeshi have not been confirmed by police.
The suspects, all aged in their 20s and from London, were stopped by officers on Monday afternoon, 300 miles from their homes, hours after it was revealed that bin Laden had been assassinated in a raid by US special forces in Pakistan.
It put the Western world on high alert of possible revenge attacks from al-Qaida, amid threats of a “nuclear hellstorm” on the West if the terrorist mastermind was ever captured or killed.
The suspects were detained at 4.32pm following a stop-check on their vehicle by officers from the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, who police the vast plant which handles highly dangerous nuclear material.
They were then arrested under the Terrorism Act by officers from Cumbria Police, held in custody in Carlisle overnight before being transferred to Manchester to be dealt with by the North West Counter Terrorism Unit, based in the city.
After details of the arrests were released by the Cumbria force and Greater Manchester Police (GMP) yesterday, the Metropolitan Police revealed it had conducted raids on four houses in east London as part of the investigation.
A small container was recovered from one of the properties and has been sent for forensic examination, it was confirmed.
The men’s arrests are not believed to have been intelligence-led but were as a direct result of the initial police stop-check on their vehicle.
A statement from GMP added: “At this stage we are not aware of any connection to recent events in Pakistan.”
Secret information revealed by WikiLeaks last week detailed threats from a terror suspect interrogated at Guantanamo Bay who spoke of al-Qaida unleashing a “nuclear hellstorm” of revenge if bin Laden, the founder and leader of the terror group, was ever captured or killed by forces from the West.
According to reports last year, a counter-terrorism review of Britain’s nuclear power plants was carried out after fears arose over safety at Sellafield.
Concerns about protecting the plant may have come to light during an exercise in which special forces posed as terrorists to test security, according to a report in The Times, last December.
The Civil Nuclear Constabulary, which has a force of about 800 officers, most of whom are trained marksmen, is tasked with protecting the country’s nuclear estate from the threat of international terrorism and has recently upgraded the quality and type of weapons and ammunition used by staff.
The sprawling Sellafield site on the Cumbrian coast is heavily protected by both private security and officers from the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, some of whom are armed.
Sellafield is responsible for decommissioning and reprocessing nuclear waste and fuel manufacturing on behalf of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.