Some of central London’s busiest streets were cleared by counter terror officers today as they moved to arrest the inhabitants of a stolen Belgian registered car.
Police told workers in nearby buildings to stay away from the windows as they moved to arrest three men, raising the possibility that officers feared a bomb in the stolen silver BMW saloon. Blackfriars Road and St. George’s Circul were closed temporarily around three o’clock this afternoon as police moved in.
Despite the high drama of police response vehicles and armed officers, police played the event down as a traffic stop. The Metropolitan Police spokesman said: “The occupants of the vehicle – three men – were arrested on suspicion of theft of a motor vehicle… They currently remain in custody at a south London police station”, reports The Independent.
— Lauren Towner (@laurentphotog) November 21, 2015
More details have not been forthcoming, but the roads affected have now been reopened.
Despite police clearing the area, a number of pictures of the incident made it onto micro-blogging site Twitter, showing a modern saloon with Belgian plates surrounded by officers.
Police have been on high alert since the Paris terror killings last week, and the hunt continues for members of the cell who were involved in planning and realising the attack. The strong link between Islamist terror attacks in France and the Muslim community in Belgium has been highlighted by the killings, which may have informed the strong response to the stolen Belgian car in London today.
Suspicious car spotted in Blackfriars in London, roads closed, at least 3 held pic.twitter.com/tKmzmEYhQR
— Khalid Khan™ (@khalidkhan787) November 21, 2015
The assault weapons and grenade launcher bought by terrorist killers for the Charlie Hebdo attack in January were purchased from underworld arms dealers in Belgium for just $5,000. Later in the year a would-be killer boarded a Paris-bound train in Brussels with an AK-47 rifle and attempted to kill his fellow passengers, before being subdued by a group of off-duty American servicemen who happened to be on the same service.
The most recent Paris attack was also planned and executed from Brussels, with leads indicating the infamous Islamist enclave suburb Molenbeek may have been a haven for the killers as they plotted.