Armed police have swooped on four Islamic terror suspects in overnight raids, foiling a suspected imminent attack on tomorrow’s Remembrance Sunday parade which will be attended by HM the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, and the Prime Minister.
The raids, which took place in West London and High Wycombe over Thursday night and Friday morning led to all four men, aged 19, 22, 25 and 27 being charged on suspicion of being concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism. The arrests were unusual in many respects, taking place in the evening and early hours rather than at dawn, and by teams of police marksmen from SO15 terrorism command, suggesting those arrested were believed to be armed and dangerous and that an attack was imminent.
Of the reasons behind the arrests, official details are present scarce, and a police spokesman remarked: “We are not prepared to discuss further at this time due to operational reasons”, however Royal and security sources have suggested there was a serious threat to senior figures over the weekend. One insider told British tabloid The Sun “In essence, it is suspected there was a plan to use a knife to carry out an assassination of the Queen or another high profile figure during a Remembrance ceremony”. Other sources have suggested the police were moving to foil a gun attack, and decided therefore to use the heavily armed SO15 officers.
The first man arrested on Thursday evening was said by neighbours to be 19-year old Yousaf Syed at his High Wycombe home. He has already had a run-in with counter terrorism officers, and it is believed he had his passport revoked earlier this year to prevent him travelling to Syria to fight global jihad. The young man had recently become visibly radicalised, growing a full beard, switching to traditional Islamic dress and having altercations with his neighbours over their ‘Western’ tastes in music. Apologising for him, his mother is believed to have told a neighbour “I’m sorry, it’s my son. He’s young and he’s just discovered his faith”, reports the Daily Mail.
The other arrests took place over the next few hours in West London, at a house in Hounslow, in a car in Southall, and a home in Uxbridge. Police are also searching additional addresses in Greenford and Hayes.
British security services are on high alert this weekend after the murder of a Canadian reservist soldier, Corporal Nathan Cirillo was murdered while on duty guarding the national war memorial in Ottowa, Canada. As he was on ceremonial duties he was unarmed and the killer was able to go on a rampage inside the Canadian parliament before being shot dead by the Sergeant-at-Arms.
While the British government does not comment on whether soldiers on ceremonial duties are armed, visible patrols of soldiers in combat gear carrying assault rifles and police marksmen have increased in central London in past weeks. The security operation around today and tomorrow’s remembrance ceremonies, which will mark 100 years since the outbreak of the Great War is said to be ‘unprecedented’ in scale.