'All clear' after 20,000 evacuated in city terror alert

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The Independent Online

A spokeswoman for West Midlands Police said: "The inner ring road is open to traffic again and the cordon around the city's Broad Street entertainment district and Chinese quarter has been lifted."

Four controlled explosions were carried out on a bus in Corporation Street near the Square Peg pub, although officers said the item destroyed had not posed a threat. Police said bomb disposal squad officers also examined a suspicious package at the Travelodge hotel in Broad Street. The device, a box with wires hanging out and a switch on top, was later found to be harmless.

The drama began at around 7.45pm last night when West Midlands Police warned the public to avoid travelling into the city centre and vehicles were not allowed past the A38 inner ring road. The city's bars, clubs, restaurants and hotels were initially advised to go about their business as usual, but at around 8.40pm police ordered the evacuation of large parts of the city centre.

The Assistant Chief Constable of West Midlands Police, Stuart Hyde, said last night: "We are acting on information that we have received. Clearly you wouldn't expect me to detail to you the nature of that information, but putting public safety first and following very careful analysis, we have come to the conclusion that the best way to protect the public is to shut Broad Street tonight and to close the Hurst Street area of the city as well."

These areas are the hub of Birmingham's energetic nightlife, and are thought to contain around 200 bars and clubs. Police insisted that the decision to close such a large part of the city had not been taken lightly. "We have made this decision after careful analysis and consideration and we are very, very grateful to the public for their understanding. We believe it is a proportionate response to the information. I would ask the public to stay vigilant."

The full-scale alert was by far the biggest of several security scares in Britain over the past two days, showing that the country and its security services and police are understandably jittery after Thursday's bombs atrocities in London.

But Mr Hyde said: "I don't believe that the incident that we are dealing with this evening is connected with the events of 7 July in London. I want to make that pretty clear."