UK under attack as car bomb rams into Glasgow airport main terminal - terrorists arrested after setting SUV and selves on fire
June 30, 2007
July 1, 2007
Britain under attack as bombers strike at airportDavid Leppard
BRITAIN was last night put on its highest state of security alert after an attempted car firebombing at Glasgow airport raised fears of a new wave of terrorist attacks.
Gordon Brown placed the country on a "critical" threat level, indicating that MI5 believes a terrorist attack is expected "imminently".
In yesterday's attack in Glasgow, two Asian-looking men crashed a car into the airport's main terminal building. Police are linking it to the failed car bomb attack in London's West End early on Friday morning.
Two men were arrested at the airport. Early this morning antiterrorist police announced they had arrested two further people in Cheshire in connection with the attack.
In a televised statement from Downing Street last night, Brown said there would be heightened security at airports and other crowded places. "The first duty of the government is the security and safety of all the British people. So it is right to raise the levels at airports and other crowded places in light of the threat.
"I want all people to be vigilant and support police in light of the difficult decisions they have to make. I know the British people will stand together, united, resolute and strong."
It is understood deployment of troops is also being considered at airports, where authorities yesterday increased security within hours of the Glasgow attack. Tighter security is also expected at today's tribute concert for Princess Diana at Wembley organised by her sons.
In Glasgow, witnesses described how the two men drove the four-wheel-drive vehicle into the doors of the airport's main terminal building. One of the men got out of the Jeep Cherokee with his clothes on fire. He was restrained by passengers while others put out the flames with a fire extinguisher.
Eyewitness Jackie Kennedy, 46, described how she watched one of the occupants of the car douse himself in petrol and set himself alight.
"He had a big smirk on his face. He lifted up what appeared to be a five-litre drum, which I think had petrol in it, and set himself on fire. His clothes were melting in front of my very eyes.
"The police tried to pounce on him but he fought back and was struggling with them. It was only when a member of the public punched him in the face that the police managed to restrain him. The police were trying to spray CS gas in his face but it was not working."
On arrival at the Royal Alexandra hospital in Paisley police said he was found to be wearing a "suspect device" – thought to be a suicide belt. The casualty ward was evacuated and hospital workers reported seeing a policeman run from the building and throw a "belt-like" object into a cricket field.
Late last night the Jeep Cherokee used in the attack had still not been forensically examined and its condition was described as ‘highly unstable.'
William Rae, chief constable of Strathclyde police, said they believed it contained inflammable material.
One witness said bottles of petrol had been shaken inside the vehicle in a bid to set it alight. "It looked like Molotov cocktails," he said.
Rae admitted he could not rule out the vehicle might contain the remains of a third attacker.
Glasgow airport remained closed last night and more than 1,000 passengers who had been due to depart were held on aircraft on the tarmac for more than six hours before being taken away in buses to the city's Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre to spend the night.
Liverpool John Lennon airport was also closed last night while police examined a suspect car and all airports in the country stopped motorists using kerb-side drop-off zones to leave and collect passengers.
Two men were arrested at the scene of the Glasgow attack and one was said to be in a critical condition with severe burns.
Within hours of the attack Brown convened a meeting of Cobra, the government's emergency response committee, to assess the implications. It followed a meeting earlier in the day to discuss the attempted car bombings in the West End.
There, two Mercedes cars were packed with gas cylinders, petrol and nails and primed to detonate within 200 yards of each other as nightclubs emptied onto the streets. Experts say the bombs were designed to create a huge fireball.
Jacqui Smith, the new home secretary, confirmed the raised security alert was "in response to the events of the last 48 hours". It was last at "critical" last August after the foiled airline bomb plots.
Rae said members of SO15, the Met's counter-terrorism unit, travelled to Scotland last night to help with the investigation. "We believe the incident at Glasgow airport is linked to the events in London," he said. "There are very similar features to both incidents and we are able to link both incidents. We can confirm that this is being treated as a terrorist incident."
He said no advance intelligence had been received about the attempt although ABC News quoted an unnamed American law enforcement officer claiming US officials had received intelligence reports two weeks ago warning of a possible terror attack in Glasgow against "airport infrastructure or aircraft".
The Yard declined to comment on reports that it had managed to identify three possible suspects in the West End attack.
Well-placed security sources said the Met and MI5 had called in armed surveillance teams from the army's Special Reconnaissance Regiment to help track down the car bomb suspects. The same unit, along with armed surveillance officers from the Met's Counter-Terrorist Command (CTC), was involved in a hunt for five alleged would-be suicide bombers.
The Ministry of Defence declined to comment on reports that the regiment and the SAS, which now has a forward base in west London, had been called in to help with the police manhunt.
A senior Whitehall official did say, however, that police hoped for an early breakthrough. "It's promising. We are on the trail. They [the CTC] are confident they will get to the bottom of it." The consensus among senior law enforcement officials was that the West End attack bore the hall-marks of an Islamist terror attack directed by "core Al-Qaeda" figures in Pakistan.
Mayor Ken Livingstone urged Londoners to remain vigilant. "The discovery of two potential car bombs in central London, with those responsible still at large, means we face a very real terrorist threat," he said.
Sources suggested the government was likely to use the latest attacks as an opportunity to impose tougher control orders on those terror suspects it has been unable to jail because of a lack of evidence admissible in court.
Seven of the 17 people so far placed on control orders have absconded in recent months. They include a suspect who was previously said to have been interested in carrying out a car bomb attack against a London night-club. The tougher controls would include longer curfews and police guards on suspects' homes.
‘Firebomb' car rams terminal at 30mphRuairi O'Kane
The first afternoon of the Scottish school holidays meant the terminal at Glasgow airport was packed with families queuing at check-in desks.
Outside the building's glass doors travellers waiting to be collected saw an erratically driven dark green Jeep Cherokee approach at speed. The Asian driver began to rev the engine furiously before wrenching the wheel and smashing the tough four by four vehicle directly into the terminal building.
Security bollards blocked the path of the vehicle as the driver tried to ram the main doors. The air became heavy with the stench of petrol. Driver and passenger, described as burly Asian men, leapt from the vehicle and it burst into flames.
Airport staff described the men as screaming "Allah" as the driver doused the burning vehicle with more fuel soaking himself in the process. His passenger began to smash bottles of petrol and his own clothes now ablaze the driver fell to the floor as police, passengers and airport staff reacted.
Thomas Conroy, a maintenance worker at the airport, described the attack: "One man started fighting with five other people," he said. "Then I saw the car on fire. There was a huge bang and the whole car went up.
"There were more explosions then the terminal itself caught fire. I've never seen anything like it."
Bystanders described petrol and gas canisters in the car, which rammed into the building at about 30mph.
Stuart Laurie said: "It was total madness. The car hit the doors then something exploded. The flames were 20ft high. One of them was spraying petrol everywhere."
Jackie Kennedy, a 46-year-old beautician from Glasgow who was heading to Dubai, had just checked in when she heard the crash."One of the men got out. He looked like he was from the Middle East and was talking gibberish. He had a big smirk on his face. He lifted up what appeared to be a five-litre drum which I think had petrol in it and set himself on fire. His clothes were melting in front of my very eyes.
"The police tried to pounce on him but he fought back and was struggling with them. It was only when a member of the public punched him in the face that the police managed to restrain him.
"The police were trying to spray CS gas in his face but it was not working."
Lynsey McBean, 26, from Ersk-ine, Renfrewshire, was due to fly out to Canada and witnessed the incident from yards away.
"We got there about 3 o'clock, just as it happened. My boyfriend was unloading golf clubs and we saw a green Cherokee drive straight into the front door of the airport but it got jammed.
"They were obviously trying to get it further inside the airport as the wheels were spinning and smoke was coming from them. One of the men, I think it was the driver, brought out a plastic petrol canister and poured it under the car. He then set light to it.
"At that point a policeman came over, the passenger got out of the car and punched him. I began to run away. But when I looked back several people had run over to try and stop the men.
Alison Spink, a trainee manager at Enterprise Car Rental, said there was "sheer panic". "Smoke was billowing into the terminal and people began to cry and scream," she said. "There was a mad rush for the exits and there were parents with children in their prams trying to rush down escalators. We were told to make a run for it."
One of the first witnesses on the scene, Andy Gerritsen, a 50-year-old bank manager from Amsterdam, tried to help the driver, thinking he was the victim of an accident.
Gerritsen said he had tried to put his coat round him to put out the flames. "My first reaction was to try to help him but then he became very aggressive and was making gestures towards anyone who came near him."
Steven Clarkson described knocking the man to the ground after police struggled to control him. "Police approached and tried to restrain the Asian fellow but he got up and started fighting. I managed to knock him to the ground and four policemen got on top and restrained him.
"He was disorientated when I knocked him down otherwise I don't think I would have been able. He was a big fellow."
The car passenger was being held at Govan high-security police station last night, while the driver was treated at the Royal Alexandra hospital in Paisley.
Holidaymakers and airline staff were taken to a nearby hotel. Hands shaking as they sipped tea, they watched televi-sion news trying to make sense of the attack.
Flaming SUV Rams U.K. Airport; 4 Arrests
By IAN STEWART
Associated Press Writer
GLASGOW, Scotland (AP) - A Jeep Cherokee trailing a cascade of flames rammed into Glasgow's airport on Saturday, shattering glass doors just yards from passengers at the check-in counters. Police said they believed the attack was linked to two car bombs found in London the day before.
Britain raised its terror alert to "critical" - the highest possible level - and the Bush administration announced plans to increase security at airports and on mass transit.
One of the men in the car was in critical condition at a hospital with severe burns, while the other was in police custody, said Scottish Police Chief Constable Willie Rae. Five bystanders in Glasgow were wounded, although none seriously, police said.
Rae said a "suspect device" was found on the man at the hospital and it was taken to a safe location where it was being investigated. He would not say whether the device was a suicide belt, but British security officials said evidence pointed to the attack being a suicide mission.
Police later arrested two more suspects in the London and Glasgow plots in Cheshire county in northern England, Scotland Yard said early Sunday.
"I can confirm that we believe the incident at Glasgow airport is linked to the events in London yesterday," Rae said at a news conference. "There are clearly similarities and we can confirm that this is being treated as a terrorist incident."
Police foiled the earlier plot Friday after two cars were found in central London packed with explosives - one outside a nightclub near Piccadilly Circus and another parked nearby.
A British government security official said the methods used in the airport attack and Friday's thwarted plots were similar, with all three vehicles carrying large quantities of flammable materials. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.
Police and MI5 had no specific intelligence warning of a plan to attack Scotland, but they have monitored a host of suspected terrorists and plots there, he said. It was not yet clear whether there was an international element to the planning or funding of the attacks, the official said.
The new terror threat presents Prime Minister Gordon Brown, a Scot who took office on Wednesday, with an enormous challenge and comes at a time of already heightened vigilance one week before the anniversary of the July 7 London transit attacks, which killed 52 people.
"I know that the British people will stand together, united, resolute and strong," Brown said Saturday in a televised statement.
President Bush was being kept informed of the situation, the White House said. "We're in contact with British authorities on the matter," said Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the National Security Council, in Washington.
The green Jeep barreled toward Glasgow's main airport terminal shortly after 3 p.m. Witness Scott Leeson said bollards - security posts outside the entrance - stopped the driver from driving into the bustling terminal, but the nose of the vehicle smashed the glass doors.
"If he'd got through, he'd have killed hundreds, obviously," he said.
AP photographs from the scene showed the car hit the building at an angle and was poking into the terminal. The Jeep struck the building directly in front of check-in counters, where dozens of passengers were lined up, police said.
Lynsey McBean, a witness at the terminal, said the driver kept trying to push the car forward after it got stuck, and "the wheels were spinning and smoke was coming from them."
She said one of the men then took out a plastic gasoline canister and poured a liquid under the car. "He then set light to it," said McBean, 26, from Erskine, Scotland.
Police subdued the driver and a passenger, both described by witnesses as South Asian - a term used to refer to people from India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and other countries in the region. The previous round of terrorist activity in Britain, in July 2005, was largely carried out by local Muslims, raising ethnic tensions in Britain.
Witnesses said one of the men was engulfed in flames and spoke "gibberish" as an official used a fire extinguisher to douse the fire.
Glasgow police spokeswoman Elisa Dunn said five bystanders were treated for injuries - one of whom was hospitalized with a leg injury.
About 2,500 people were evacuated from the airport and all flights were suspended. Police said Liverpool Airport and roads around Edinburgh were also closed.
The attack left passengers shaken and stranded on the first day of summer vacation for Glasgow schools. At the time of the crash, the airport was bustling with families heading out on vacation.
Meanwhile in London, police were gathering evidence from closed circuit television footage, as forensics experts searched for clues into the foiled bombings. The two Mercedes cars had been loaded with gasoline, gas canisters and nails in one of the capital's busiest areas on a night when Londoners like to go out and party. Security officials and police denied an ABC News report that they had a "crystal clear" picture of one suspect from CCTV footage.
The vehicles were found abandoned in the early hours of Friday in what police believe was an attempt to kill scores or even hundreds of people. Detectives said they were keeping an open mind about the bombers' identities, but terrorism experts said the signs pointed to a cell linked to or inspired by al-Qaida.
One car was abandoned outside the Tiger Tiger nightclub on Haymarket in the heart of London's entertainment district. The other had been towed after being parked illegally on nearby Cockspur Street and was discovered in an impound lot about a mile away in Park Lane, near Hyde Park.
London police said extra officers were being deployed at landmarks, airports, train stations and bus terminals across the capital Sunday, and had been ordered to step up the use of stop and search powers. Armed police would patrol at major rail stations, it said.
At least 450 officers would monitor a rock concert at London's Wembley Stadium on Sunday to mark the 10th anniversary of the death of Princess Diana, police said.
In the New York area, officials at the airports went on a heightened state of alert and manned vehicle checkpoints. No threats had been made against the airports, said Steve Coleman, spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Brown came to office pledging to win back the support of voters disenchanted over the Iraq war. But he backed Tony Blair's decision to send troops to Iraq in 2003 and has shown support for greater anti-terror measures that have angered Britain's some 1.8 million Muslims.
The Glasgow incident carried reminders of a foiled plot in December 1999 to attack Los Angeles International Airport, when customs agents stopped an Algerian-born man in a car packed with 124 explosives. He was jailed for 22 years and prosecutors said he was intent on bombing the Los Angeles airport on the eve of the millennium.