'Suspicious material' at Newcastle University: Counter terrorism police take over investigation

Two students have have since been arrested

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The Independent Online

After students were twice evacuated from a building at Newcastle University where a controlled explosion was carried out over “suspicious material”, counter terrorism police have been given responsibility of the investigation, the police have confirmed.

Two 18-year-old Russian students from the university have since been arrested.

One of the teenagers was arrested in London on Tuesday on suspicion of offences under the Terrorism Act, while the other was held in Northumbria on Wednesday on suspicion of offences under the Explosives Act, the police disclosed on Thursday.

The two suspects remain in custody while officers are given more time to question them.

“Due to the potential offences under investigation, the North East CTU will lead the inquiry at this time,” a police spokesman said.

"There is no evidence to suggest that students, or any wider communities are at immediate risk in connection with the alleged offences under investigation."

"We recognise that people may have concerns as a result of this activity and would like to reassure them that precautions were taken at the earliest opportunity to ensure public safety while inquiries were undertaken.

"We would ask people not to be alarmed and we are grateful for the patience and understanding of people locally."

On Tuesday, police officers asked residents of the INTO building to leave while a a controlled explosion was carried out.

The roads surrounding the flats were also closed off to allow for an investigation by specialist bomb disposal experts.

A second temporary evacuation of the building was ordered early on Thursday morning, but students have since returned to their flats.

A specialist robot was seen entering the building and eventually a controlled explosion was carried out on Newcastle Town Moor.

Yesterday Dr John Hogan, registrar at Newcastle University, said they had excellent security arrangements in place.

“We'd like to reassure staff and current and prospective students that our main campus is open as usual today,” he said.

“We would reiterate that our campus is very safe.

”We have excellent security arrangements in place at the university and that allowed us to deal with the issue very quickly.“

It emerged on Thursday that police officers were called in by university staff on Tuesday morning at around 10am, following concerns about an alleged ”change in behaviour“ of a student and the belief he was carrying a knife.

Jo Farrell, assistant chief constable at Northumbria Police, confirmed that the counter terrorism unit is now leading the investigation.

"A University Neighbourhood Police officer attended and met with staff and as a result of that meeting the officer and staff attended a bedroom in the halls of residence.

"A number of items were seen in the bedroom which gave cause for concern and we implemented our well established response plans which included an evacuation of the building and implementation of safety cordons," she added.

Additional reporting by  PA