Fresh search in counter-terrorism operation

POLICE said yesterday they were searching a 10th address as part of a major counter-terrorism operation in north-west England to thwart a suspected al-Qaida plot involving Pakistani nationals.

Twelve men — 11 of them Pakistanis — were arrested in dramatic daylight raids by hundreds of officers on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he had spoken with Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari by telephone on Thursday night to discuss the operation.

Brown’s office said they agreed that Britain and Pakistan “share a serious threat from terrorism and violent extremism”, and had committed to “work together to address this common challenge”.

Most terrorist plots in Britain since September 11, 2001 have had links to Pakistan, including suicide bombings in July 2005 which killed 52 people on London’s underground and bus network.

Greater Manchester Police said in a statement that the new search was taking place at an address in Liverpool.

They added that the suspects arrested were still in custody “in various locations across the country”.

Wednesday’s raids had to be brought forward because of a security blunder by Britain’s top counter-terrorism officer, Bob Quick, who was photographed entering Brown’s 10 Downing Street residence openly carrying a secret document on the operation.

The document, headlined “Briefing Note: Operation Pathway” and marked “secret”, described it as a “Security Service-led investigation into suspected AQ (al-Qaida) driven attack planning within Britain”.

Quick resigned on Thursday, acknowledging that “my action could have compromised a major counter-terrorism operation”.

Although the police previously insisted there was no intelligence pointing to any specific targets, sources said photographs of four popular Manchester locations were recovered during searches.

These were the Arndale and Trafford Centre shopping complexes, Birdcage nightclub and St Ann’s Square.

But security staff at the Trafford Centre and officials at Manchester Arndale said they had not been informed of any threat.

An Arndale spokesman said: “Both Manchester Arndale and the The Birdcage will be operating as normal over the Easter weekend.”

The Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police Peter Fahy also said yesterday the public should not fear visiting any of the reported targets.

As rumours of a bomb factory and stories of plots to blow up shopping centres made national news, the Liverpool residents of Highgate Street began to worry.

The people living across the road from the flats at the centre of the new terrorist search yesterday know nothing of what is going on inside the cordoned area.

For operational reasons, police have been limited in what they can tell the handful of families living opposite the dishevelled apartment block.

But residents spoke angrily about a lack of feedback from the authorities as they struggled to digest the possibility of an alleged bomb factory existing just 15m away.

Mother-of-five Marie Lee, 37, said: “We have heard nothing from the police. It’s frightening to think what we might be living opposite.

“People are reading stories about bomb factories, but we’ve had nothing official to put our fears at rest.

“We’ve never had problems with the tenants, but it is an ideal place for them to organise something if something is going on.

“It is quite well covered.”


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