Britain faces âmajor escalationâ after three failed car bombings
BRITAIN: Britain faces a âmajor escalationâ in Islamist
attacks, a senior official said Sunday, after the national threat level
was raised to âcriticalâ following three failed car bombings in two
Scottish police confirmed that an incident Saturday in which a jeep
rammed the main terminal at Glasgow airport and burst into flames was
being treated as terrorism and is linked to a double car bomb plot
thwarted in London Friday.
The plots raised the spectre of possible Al-Qaeda-inspired attacks
returning to the British capital, two days after a new government took
power and a week before the second anniversary of the cityâs July 7,
2005 suicide bombings.
âI can confirm that we believe the incident at Glasgow airport is
linked to the events in London yesterday,â said Chief Constable Willie
Rae, briefing reporters on the incident earlier in the day.
In a potentially disturbing detail, Rae also revealed that a âsuspect
deviceâ was found on one of two men arrested after the attack, when he
was taken to hospital to be treated for severe burns.
Anti-terrorism police later arrested two people in the Cheshire
region of northwestern England in connection with the failed attacks in
London and Glasgow, police said Sunday without providing other details.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown, facing a baptism of fire just days after
taking office, explained the decision to raise the threat level to
âcriticalâ after a fresh meeting of the governmentâs COBRA crisis cell
late on Saturday.
âCriticalâ is the highest on a five-level scale, and means another
attack is expected âimminently.â
âThe first duty of a government is the security and safety of all the
British people,â Brown said. âSo it is right to raise the levels of
security at airports and in crowded places in the light of the
Amid fast-moving events, Liverpoolâs John Lennon airport was also
closed until further notice after the attack in Glasgow.
In the United States the White House also announced that security was
being beefed up at US airports, although a spokesman said there was âno
indication of any specific or credible threat to the United States.â
The developments came exactly a week before the second anniversary of
the July 7, 2005 suicide bombings on London transport which killed 52
people during the morning rush-hour.
The latest string of foiled attacks began in the early hours of
Friday when two Mercedes cars packed with gas cannisters and nails were
abandoned in Londonâs entertainment district.
Police launched a manhunt immediately after the first car was found
shortly thereafter, and on Saturday Sky News reported that CCTV footage
had provided âcrystal clearâ images of a man running away from the car
parked outside a crowded nightclub.
The second car was left parked nearby, also in the early hours of
Friday, but it was given a parking ticket and towed away to a car pound.
It was only there that the explosives were found after police were
alerted later Friday.
One witness quoted by the BBC said that some 500 people were in the
nightclub when the first car bomb was spotted by alert guards around
1:30 am â shortly before the club was to close, spilling revelers out
onto the street.
In Saturdayâs Glasgow attack, two men described by some eyewitnesses
as of âAsianâ appearance drove a jeep-style vehicle into the front of
the main terminal.
In Britain, âAsianâ appearance usually refers to people of Indian,
Pakistani or Bangladeshi origin.
Witnesses said one of the men with his clothes on fire left the
vehicle and was restrained by members of the public.
The flames were put out with a fire extinguisher, and the pair were
arrested, one of them being taken to hospital.
At a news conference later, Chief Constable Rae said a âsuspect
deviceâ was found on him while he was being treated for severe burns at
the hospital, which was partly evacuated as a result.
He refused to respond to a question about whether the âsuspect
deviceâ was a suicide belt, but added: âIt was on his person.â
In London security was ratcheted up with increased police patrols on
the streets, in particular as hundreds of thousands of people turned out
for the cityâs annual Gay Pride march.
But London Mayor Ken Livingstone insisted Londoners would not be
At Wimbledon security was tightened up at the famous tennis
championships, with systematic checks on all vehicles entering the car
parks and on everyone coming in to the tournament.
Chillingly, a message posted in an Internet chat room shortly before
the attacks were foiled appeared to indicate an Islamist link.
âLondon shall be bombed,â said the 300-word posting on the Al-Hesbah
chat room â sometimes used by Al-Qaeda â left by a person identified as
Abu Osama al-Hazeen, CBS News reported.
In an article Sunday, Brownâs new security adviser former Scotland
Yard chief Lord John Stevens warned: âMake no mistake, this weekendâs
bomb attacks signal a major escalation in the war being waged on us by
âWriting in the News of the World weekly tabloid, Brownâs new adviser
on international security issues said there had been a significant
increase in Al-Qaeda influence in Britain.
âThe terror of 7/7 (the July 7, 2005 suicide bomb attacks in London)
was awful enough, but now Al-Qaeda has imported the tactics of Baghdad
and Bali to our streets,â he said.
âAnd it will get worse before it gets better.â
He added: âHard evidence is hard to come by, but there is growing
suspicion Al-Qaeda operatives â possibly British-born â have returned
from Iraq as well as the traditional terrorist training camps in
Afghanistan to guide groups here.â