Suspected terrorist escapes as two held

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The Independent Online
ANTI-TERRORIST police were last night questioning two men after an armed raid by police in Somerset, writes Martin Whitfield.

One man escaped after Avon and Somerset police officers surrounded three men in thick mist at a quarry where explosives are kept outside Westbury-sub-Mendip, near Wells, yesterday morning.

The arrests come after fears of increased IRA attacks. Two bombs exploded in London last week.

The men were arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and were transferred to Paddington Green police station, west London. They are thought to be Irish and in their early twenties.

The man who escaped was believed to have been in a Ford vehicle. He drove off, abandoning the car not far from the quarry and then running away on foot. Fifteen minutes later he stole a Toyota four-wheel drive vehicle from nearby Draycott. That vehicle was also abandoned, at Shipham, about six miles away.

The man was described by police as being 5ft 9in, in his early twenties, with dark tight curly hair, and having a strong Irish accent. He was wearing jeans, a dark bomber jacket and dark T-shirt with a 'S' motif on the front. He has tattoos on his left forearm.

Assistant Chief Constable Mike Hedges warned people not to approach the man. 'He may be armed and could be dangerous. We are doing everything within our power to find him as quickly as possible,' he said.

A police helicopter with searchlights was used in the hunt and more than 50 officers scoured hills surrounding the quarry.

Mr Hedges added: 'The mist was so bad, even though our officers were standing only 10 yards apart they couldn't see anything. The helicopter managed to get within a mile of the quarry but the pilot couldn't see the ground. A handgun was found at the scene, but no shots were fired. We are now liaising with other forces.'

Scotland Yard confirmed two men were being interviewed.