New property searched by 'terror plot' police

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Police investigating an alleged al Qaida terror plot in north west England were today searching an additional address.

Eleven Pakistani nationals and one UK-born Briton were still being questioned at various locations in the UK in connection with the alleged plot.

The additional address being searched by counter-terrorism officers is in Liverpool, close to where some of the suspects were arrested.

The men, ten of whom hold student visas, can be detained for up to 28 days.

A Greater Manchester Police spokesman said: "Twelve suspects remain in custody in various locations across the country.

"A further address on Highgate Street, Liverpool, is also being searched, bringing the total number of addresses being searched to ten."

The police statement came as Downing Street revealed that the Prime Minister had spoken with the President of Pakistan about the threat from terrorism.

The talks were held amid concern about the number of suspects who had come to the UK from Pakistan on student visas.

A Downing Street spokesman said: "The President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Gordon Brown spoke by telephone last night.

"They agreed that the UK and Pakistan share a serious threat from terrorism and violent extremism, and committed to work together to address this common challenge."

However, Pakistan's High Commissioner to the UK said last night that not enough was being done by the British authorities to carry out security checks on foreign students coming to the UK.

Wajid Shamsul Hasan said the Pakistani authorities could help carry out background checks on student visa applicants but were not allowed to.

He said: "It is at your end you have to do something more. Every day we are raiding people, we are arresting people, we are arresting suspects wherever we find them."

Forensics officers continued meticulous searches of the raided addresses in Cheetham Hill in Manchester and Liverpool. Another address in Highgate Street, Liverpool, was among those raided on Wednesday.

According to unconfirmed reports some of the men held on Wednesday were seen taking photographs and filming themselves outside the Trafford Centre and Manchester Arndale shopping complexes, as well as The Birdcage nightclub and St Ann's Square in the city.

But security staff at the Trafford Centre and officials at Manchester Arndale said they had not been informed of any threat.

An Arndale spokesman said: "Both Manchester Arndale and the The Birdcage will be operating as normal over the Easter weekend."

The Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police Peter Fahy also said yesterday the public should not fear visiting any of the reported targets.

Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, a Greater Manchester-based Muslim youth organisation, said: "Most visitors and students to the UK are peaceful people that abhor terrorism and we should not tarnish all Pakistanis or Muslims because of the actions of a small minority. In these current arrests, they are innocent till proven guilty.

"I urge that in Manchester, Liverpool and Lancashire, people should carry on as normal and spend time out in city centres and shopping centres.

"During Friday prayers we urge people to remain calm and support police with any information."

Two jailed terrorists lived a street away from two of the arrested suspects.

One of the convicted men was a Pakistani national who came to the UK on a student visa and later settled in the Cheetham Hill area.

Four of the suspects held in the raids across north-west England on Wednesday were detained in Cheetham Hill.

Two were arrested at a lodging house in Galsworthy Avenue, which is close to the former homes of al Qaida member Habib Ahmed and terror recruitment sergeant Abdul Rahman.

Taxi driver Ahmed, 29, was jailed for 10 years at Manchester Crown Court in December - nine for being a member of al Qaida and an additional year for possessing a document for terror-related purposes.

He lived in Elmfield Street, just one street away from Galsworthy Avenue.

Mobile phone salesman Abdul Rahman, 26, was imprisoned for six years at the same court in November 2007 after he became the first person in Britain to be convicted of a charge of disseminating terrorist information.

Rahman, who arrived in Britain on a four-year student visa in September 2004 and soon dropped out of a biotechnology course at university in Dundee, lived in Heywood Street on the other side of Galsworthy Avenue.

Habib Ahmed assisted Rangzieb Ahmed, 33, of Fallowfield, Manchester, who was the first person to be convicted in the UK of directing terrorism.

Rangzieb was given a life sentence and ordered to serve a minimum of 10 years after a jury convicted him heading a three-man active al Qaida service cell which was preparing to commit mass murder.

Wednesday's raids were brought forward because of a gaffe by Britain's top counter-terrorist officers.

Assistant Commissioner Bob Quick resigned after a security breach when he was photographed carrying a secret document containing details of the police operation into 10 Downing Street.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown defended the anti-terror operation but suggested more work must be done to stop lawless areas of Pakistan acting as safe havens for extremists to plot attacks worldwide.

The new property being scoured by police is another flat in a rundown complex in Highgate Street, Edge Hill, Liverpool.

A flat in the block was raided on Wednesday evening along with other properties in the city and in Greater Manchester.

Jalaraju Gorripati, 29, who lives in the flats said he knew most of the residents there.

He said: "Most of the people are students, about 85%.

"I know most of the people here and I don't think anyone's capable of being involved in a terror plot."

The flats - blocked off by police - are in a heavily deprived part of the city.

Piles of rubbish and discarded furniture lie in the grounds to the flats - many of which are boarded up.

Mr Gorripati, a nautical science student from southern India, added: "We pay about £500 per month for the flats and they have four bedrooms - it's about £25 each a week."

Another student who did not want to be named said about 10 police officers were stationed in the two corridors to the flats and had spent days taking residents' names and dates of birth in a big information collecting exercise.

Ajay Shukla, 27, who lives in the flats said tenants of one of the flats being searched threw an impromptu celebration when Liverpool was covered by snow at the start of the year.

Mr Shukla, who also studies nautical science, said: "I was coming back from university and they were celebrating the snow.

"They were outside dancing round to Hindi music.

"They asked me and some others to join them but I had some work to do so couldn't.

"I am from near Delhi and I have seen lots of stuff like this (the raids) but I never thought I would have to face this in the UK.

"I never had suspicions about them.

"They were jolly guys, not aggressive and never any trouble."