Port scanner picks up weapons cache

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The Independent Online

Customs officers in Felixstowe have seized a consignment of machine-guns, pistols, and grenades.

Customs officers in Felixstowe have seized a consignment of machine-guns, pistols, and grenades.

The weapons were found in a van inside a shipping container at the port in Suffolk on Sunday. A British man and a woman were arrested.

The cache was spotted by a specialist £2.5m X-ray machine, Customs sources said.

Officers from Scotland Yard's anti-terrorist squad were called in, but police believe it is more likely that the weapons were destined for the criminal underworld than Irish terrorists or Islamic extremists.

Nothing was found in the original search on Sunday, but the suspects were allowed home while a more thorough examination was carried out.

This second inspection turned up the weapons and the suspects were arrested at home during a raid by officers from the anti-terrorist branch under the Terrorism Act 2000 at about 4am yesterday.

There have been a growing number of shootings in Britain involving crime gangs, particularly among rival drug dealers. The number of murders and shootings in London has reached a record high, with 190 killings in the past year.

A large proportion of the incidents in London have been between crack cocaine dealers. Senior detectives have raised concerns about the growing availability of firearms throughout Britain, with a large number being smuggled in from Eastern Europe.

The weapons seized at Felixstowe were examined by Army bomb disposal experts brought to the scene from their base 25 miles away in Colchester, Essex.

Part of the port was sealed off yesterday while the van and container were removed.

The mobile scanner which located the weapons was brought into service by Customs at the port in January last year.

It is used to identify consignments of smuggled cigarettes and tobacco, but similar machines at other UK ports have detected drugs.