Britain today remained on terror alert after a series of alarms and arrests amid heightened security at airports across the UK.
A total of nine suspects have been arrested near airports in the north and south of England, while Heathrow’s Terminal Two was evacuated after a security alert yesterday.
Six of the suspects were subsequently released from arrest under anti-terror laws. Five of them were later handed over to the Immigration Service.
One man caught with a hand grenade getting off a jet at Gatwick airport on Thursday was still being questioned by anti-terrorism officers.
Police in West Yorkshire arrested two men aged 25 and 26 on Thursday, and seized a car near the perimeter fence of Leeds/Bradford Airport. The men were still being questioned today.
Roads have been closed around Stansted in Essex while security has been beefed up at airports in Manchester, Bristol and Birmingham since high-profile security measures were launched on Tuesday.
Scotland Yard Deputy Assistant Commissioner Andy Trotter said the Metropolitan Police was doing all it could to protect the capital.
“We’re taking every measure necessary to keep London safe and the evidence of our activity is out there on the streets. We’ll do everything that is required to deal with the threat that we perceive at the moment,” he said.
Passengers were evacuated in a security alert at Heathrow’s Terminal Two, which was closed for an hour and a half. It reopened in the afternoon, after a suspect package was found. It turned out to be a false alarm.
Scotland Yard revealed yesterday that four men in their 20s were arrested on Thursday afternoon in Langley, Berkshire, four miles from Heathrow Airport.
They were later released from arrest under anti-terrorism laws but were kept in custody and handed over to the Immigration Service.
Two other arrests made in the Hounslow area, near Heathrow, were described as not significant.
One man was released yesterday and one handed over to the Immigration Service.
Anti-terror squad detectives were still questioning the 37-year-old man from Venezuela caught with a live hand grenade in his luggage at Gatwick.
Checks are being made in the capital Caracas to establish his background while he remains at high security Paddington Green police station in London.
The man was on British Airways flight BA 2048 carrying 125 passengers from Bogota in Columbia.
Passengers at Gatwick were immediately evacuated from the airport’s North Terminal after the grenade was found and outbound flights were suspended.
Around 150 people were forced to spend the night wrapped in blankets.
A BA spokeswoman said around 4,000 of its passengers were affected by the security alert.
British Airways staff were travelling to Venezuela to investigate how the man managed to board a plane without the weapon being detected.
At Stansted, the access road to the terminal was closed for five hours amid heightened security measures.
It is understood the action was taken due to the arrival and departure of flights by the Israeli airline El Al to Tel Aviv, which are considered a potential target for terrorists.
The road was guarded by armed police.
High-profile security measures were first launched on Tuesday with the dramatic deployment of light tanks at Heathrow.
More than 400 soldiers and around 1,700 extra police officers were drafted in to Heathrow and other key London locations.
Police and government ministers say the move was the result of “specific intelligence” about a terrorist threat.
It is believed to have included the possibility that al Qaida terrorists have smuggled a shoulder-held rocket launcher into the UK and might try to shoot down a plane.
Police and government ministers would only say that the move was the result of a “specific threat”.
At Heathrow yesterday, passengers refused to be intimidated by the terror threat.
Stephanie Nelson, 26, from Chicago, who had arrived for a short holiday in London, said: “It’s scary but I’m not going to let it stop me from flying.
“Life has to go on. The police are doing everything they can to stop another incident like September 11 happening.”