Monday 22 January 2018

Gardai on high alert after five arrested at Sellafield

Duncan Gardham and Tom Brady

Five men were being questioned by British anti-terrorism officers last night after being arrested for allegedly taking pictures outside the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant in the wake of Osama bin Laden's death.

The men, all aged in their twenties and from London, were stopped close to the Cumbria plant -- which is 50 miles from Ireland -- on Monday afternoon, just hours after the death of the al-Qa'ida leader was announced.

The arrests follow reports last week that al-Qa'ida had threatened to launch a nuclear attack in the event of Bin Laden's death.

It is understood that the five men drove up from London and were spotted allegedly taking photographs of the facility, which is the biggest nuclear site in Europe and houses most of Britain's supply of plutonium.

Armed officers from the civil nuclear constabulary arrested the men, who were believed to be Muslim, and handed them over to Cumbria police, who drove them to the north-west counter-terrorism unit in Manchester for questioning.

Later, officers from Scotland Yard's counter-terrorism command raided four homes in east London.

The operation in Cumbria was not "intelligence-led", according to sources, and the men were only detained because of their suspicious behaviour, but Britain's security services remain on high alert for revenge attacks.

According to secret documents obtained by Wikileaks, Abu Faraj al-Libi, one of al-Qa'ida's most senior figures, was said to know the location of a nuclear bomb, hidden in Europe, that would be detonated if Bin Laden was killed or captured.


Meanwhile, a major re-assessment of security planning for the visits of Queen Elizabeth and US President Barack Obama has been carried out by officials here in the wake of the death of Bin Laden.

Senior gardai, in charge of the arrangements for the dignitaries, were in close contact throughout the day with the US secret service and the British security services as a high terror alert was introduced globally.

Updated intelligence reports were delivered to the garda crime and security branch as they completed a thorough review of the contingency planning that had been drawn up prior to the shooting of Bin Laden.

An incident where a pipe bomb was thrown at the Duke of Wellington monument in Trim, Co Meath, on April 21, is being thoroughly investigated as gardai try to establish if it was intended as a response to the queen's arrival here later this month.

Irish Independent

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