Police arrested seven people on suspicion of preparing a terrorist attack after officers found a hidden cache of weapons inside a car they had impounded for having no insurance.
The secret arsenal was only discovered two days after police seized the vehicle, it emerged today.
Two guns, ammunition, “offensive weapons and other material” were spotted inside the car at a pound after it was taken away following a “bog standard” police stop last Saturday on the M1 in south Yorkshire.
Two men were in the car at the time it was pulled over and they were allowed to leave. They were later traced and arrested after the arms discovery on Monday along with four other men suspected of being part of an Islamist terrorist plot.
Three men, aged 23, 36 and 27, were arrested in Sparkhill, Birmingham on Tuesday. Three others, a man aged 24 from Moseley, Birmingham, a 22-year-old from Alum Rock, Birmingham, and a 22-year-old from Smethwick, West Midlands, were arrested the following day. A 43-year-old man was arrested in Ravensthorpe, West Yorkshire, on Thursday. Details of the arrests were only made public by West Midlands Police today.
“As soon as the items were discovered in the impounded vehicle, our priority was to protect the public by pursuing and arresting those we believed to be involved,” said Detective Chief Superintendent Kenny Bell, the head of the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit.
The men’s homes were being searched and the car was undergoing continued forensic examination, the force said.
It declined to be drawn on potential targets for any attack, but it comes just before today’s seventh anniversary of the 7 July attacks and less than a month before the start of the Olympics and Paralympic Games. Police declined to say if the men were believed to be on their way to carry out an operation or were moving the arms for storage. The guns, which were not automatic weapons, were not loaded, police said.
News of the arrests came after five men and a woman were also arrested in a series of co-ordinated raids in London, including one address within a mile of the Olympics site. Three brothers, including a former police community support officer, were arrested at the house and continued to be questioned last night.
The three others, including a white Muslim convert who railed against British intervention in Afghanistan on a YouTube video, were arrested in west London.
The men arrested after the South Yorkshire arms cache discovery were being questioned in the West Midlands. Officers have been granted further warrants to continue holding the men arrested in Sparkhill until Tuesday.
Police said that they had no intelligence of a specific terrorist threat against the Games, which has been described as the largest security challenge for the country in decades. The current threat level from international terrorism is currently rated as “substantial”.