Suicide belt reported found on SUV terrorist- -car bombs in London linked to Glasgow attack - UK and US airports on high alert
July 1, 2007
The Cherokee Jeep involved in the incident on fire in the terminal.
Terror at Terminal OneMURDO MACLEOD, RICHARD ELIAS AND JEREMY WATSON
SUSPECTED suicide car bombers struck at Glasgow Airport yesterday, causing a massive fire, widespread panic and pushing the UK's terror threat level to "critical" - the highest level possible.
Witnesses said two Asian men deliberately rammed a four-wheel-drive vehicle into doors at Terminal 1, resulting in a fireball and causing thousands of passengers to flee for their lives.
Last night, police said the attack was linked to last week's failed car bombings in London. It also emerged that one of the alleged attackers had a "suspect device" removed from his body after he was taken to hospital to be treated for life-threatening burns. Prime Minister Gordon Brown chaired a meeting of Cobra - joined on a videolink by First Minister Alex Salmond - after which it was announced the security threat level was being increased to "critical", an indication that further terror attacks are considered imminent.
The attacks caused massive travel disruption across Scotland and the UK. Glasgow Airport was shut immediately and passengers aboard several aircraft remained stranded on the taxiways for hours. Private car access was restricted at Edinburgh and Newcastle airports, and Liverpool's John Lennon Airport was among those shut.
At a press conference last night, Strathclyde Police chief constable Willie Rae, who is heading the investigation into yesterday's outrage, said there were "very similar features" between the Glasgow Airport attack and the attempt to kill clubbers in London using two cars packed with petrol, gas and nails.
Rae also revealed that Peter Clarke, the UK's anti-terror chief, was heading to Scotland to work with him on the inquiry.
Rae said: "At about 3.15pm, a Jeep Cherokee drove into the front door at the terminal building of Glasgow International Airport.
"The vehicle caught fire on impact and two men from the vehicle were arrested at the scene. One was taken to the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley, where he is detained suffering from severe burns and he is now in a critical condition.
"When being treated, a suspect device was found at the hospital, and as a consequence of this it was partially evacuated."
Rae later clarified the device had been found on the suspect. Unconfirmed reports said the device was an explosive vest. It was also reported the suspect had 90% burns.
Rae told the conference: "The other man has been detained in police custody. The vehicle remains at the airport as it is in an unstable condition and police have had to wait for assistance before making any attempt to move it. The vehicle has been found to contain flammable material."
Rae said there was "no intelligence beforehand that Scotland was going to be attacked".
He said: "This horrendous criminal act has been felt by everyone within all of our communities and it was planned to take place on one of the busiest holiday weekends of the year."
Although Rae made it clear the incident was linked to London, Strathclyde sources said their early belief was that it had some of the hallmarks of a maverick copycat attack rather than a determined, co-ordinated assault by al-Qaeda.
Lynsey McBean, 26, from Erskine, Renfrewshire, was among hundreds of passengers who gave vivid accounts of what unfolded at the airport. She said a green Jeep Cherokee drove into an entrance and got jammed.
"They were obviously trying to get it further inside the airport, as the wheels were spinning and smoke was coming from them," she said.
"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. At that point I began to run away. But when I looked back, several people had run over to try and stop the men, who were Asian.
"I could see that one of the men was on fire. All of our party then ran to the back of the car park and saw what looked liked thousands of people rushing out of the airport."
In London, following the meeting of Cobra, Brown said: "I want all British people to be vigilant and I want them to support the police and all the authorities in the difficult decisions that they have to make. I know that the British people will stand together, united, resolute and strong."
Salmond confirmed the attack was being treated as a terrorist incident. The First Minister said police would mount extra patrols at airports and other public transport sites, and added: "It is also the case that at a number of airports car access will be restricted in terms of where cars are able to attend."
Around 35,000 people were expected to use Glasgow Airport yesterday at the start of the school summer holidays and the disruption could continue for days. Last night, 11 aircraft were stuck on the taxiways, some with passengers still on board. Motorists suffered disruption as M8 junctions near the airport were shut.
Access roads to Edinburgh Airport were shut to private cars, apparently to prevent possible further attacks, and passengers were getting to their flights by bus and taxi.
The security implications of the Glasgow attack gradually spread to other UK airports throughout the day and night. Police closed set-down roads in front of the terminal building at Birmingham International Airport until further notice as a precautionary measure. John Lennon Airport, Liverpool, was closed last night until further notice because of a suspect vehicle.
Sussex Police said it was stepping up patrols at Gatwick Airport, one of Britain's busiest.
A spokeswoman said: "Following events nationally in the past 48 hours, police are conducting additional patrols and increasing their presence at key points across the force area, including Gatwick Airport, until further notice."
Terrorism expert David Capitanchik said the location - and date - of the suspected car bomb attack was no coincidence. The academic believes the choice of Glasgow for the possible terror attack may have been influenced by the fact that Brown now leads the country.
And it came on a day when the Queen was visiting Edinburgh for the opening of the Scottish Parliament. Capitanchik pointed to the fact that security resources were focused in Edinburgh yesterday with the Queen being there.
He said: "It was also the first day of the school holidays. Scotland has to be as much on alert as the rest of the UK, especially Glasgow and Edinburgh."
Top Scottish police officers convene for emergency talks
SCOTLAND'S top police officers were locked in emergency talks last night following the Glasgow Airport attack.
The so-called 'Guardian group' was called together within hours of yesterday's incident.
It comprises the assistant chief constables of all eight Scottish police forces and is only convened at times of major emergency.
Last night, one senior police source said that while Strathclyde Chief Constable Wille Rae said there were links to the would-be car bombings in London, early indications suggested it was carried out "on impulse".
He added: "From what we know at the moment, it would appear to be a maverick, unplanned type of attack, rather than a co-ordinated, well-planned incident which you would attribute to someone like al-Qaeda.
"This does seem to be more of an attack which has been carried out on impulse than following weeks of careful preparation.
"Obviously, it is very early days to be 100% certain, but that is how it appears at first sight.
"Maybe it was prompted by the events in London in the early hours of Friday, but we will not know for definite for some time to come."
The source said that counter-terrorism command officers would be questioning the two suspects at length to discover their motivation.
He said: "What makes this incident especially useful to the authorities is that, despite the upset and chaos that it has clearly caused to people, at the end of the day no one has been seriously hurt or injured and we have a suspect to interrogate.
"This obviously means officers will be able to discover if they acted alone or instead were working for others.
"Unlike cases where the bombers are either killed or escape undetected, here the authorities can start their investigations immediately.
"They will already be analysing these individuals' mobile phones and searching their homes to discover what they can find.
"The suspects may be mavericks and acting on a whim but the end result will be days of interviews before the final picture emerges.
"Clearly with what went on in London on Friday, people will be wondering if the two incidents are linked but until these inquiries are complete we will not know that for sure."
The source added: "The fact here is that you have quite a distance from the driveway into the airport to the entrance of the terminal building and this would indicate that the attack was a determined and deliberate act."
A Scottish Executive spokesman said First Minister Alex Salmond had earlier spoken to Prime Minister Gordon Brown about the incident.
Salmond, justice secretary Kenny MacAskill, Scotland's top law officer, Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini, and the country's most senior civil servant, Sir John Elvidge, took part in a Cobra emergency contingencies committee meeting, held at Downing Street and chaired by Brown, by video link from the basement of St Andrews House in Edinburgh last night.
The meeting, which also included Westminster government ministers, police counter-terrorism officers, security service and senior Whitehall officials, comes after Cobra met earlier yesterday to discuss the attempted car-bombings in London.
The Cobra HQ is essentially a bomb-proof bunker, located deep underground and equipped with the most modern communications linking it to the outside world.
At times of crisis it is the nerve centre of the response, where ministers, officials and experts discuss urgent concerns and plan how to handle them in a climate of complete security.
It is where Tony Blair disappeared with relevant ministers on September 11, 2001, on July 7, 2005, and during military campaigns in between.
Cobra was also convened to direct the government's response to the fuel protests and the foot-and-mouth crisis.
But the only other time Cobra has been convened to handle a Scottish crisis during Labour's decade in power was in April last year, when a dead swan found in Scotland was discovered to have the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu.
RICHARD ELIAS AND BRIAN BRADY
Former safe haven from the terrorists
SCOTLAND has traditionally viewed itself as a safe haven from terror while the rest of the mainland UK, especially London, has had to endure decades of bombings.
The biggest terror attack in Scotland was the Lockerbie bombing in December 1988, which cost the lives of 270 people, including 11 in the Scottish town.
During the Northern Irish Troubles both sides in the conflict avoided carrying out attacks in Scotland.
Irish Republicans hoped to stir "Celtic solidarity" through not attacking, while Loyalists stuck to attacks in Ulster itself.
Home-grown Scottish terrorism has been fitful and has caused the authorities few real problems.
The most virulent tartan terror movement is the Scottish National Liberation Army (SNLA), focused on achieving Scottish independence. The SNLA, which is now banned in the UK, was set up after the 1979 devolution referendum amid claims that the vote had been fixed by opponents of Home Rule.
Their most high profile operation was in 1983 when letter bombs were sent to Princess Diana and to Margaret Thatcher. No one was injured.
In 1993, one of their members, Andrew McIntosh, was jailed for 12 years for placing hoax bombs outside oil industry offices and sending letter bombs to the Scottish Office in Edinburgh.
In 2002 Cherie Blair was targeted by tartan terrorists, who sent her an anonymous parcel containing a vial of caustic acid that was crudely labelled as massage oil.
In September 2006, an e-mail that claimed to be from the SNLA, threatened to poison water supplies in England. The e-mail is still the subject of a police investigation.
During the early 1980s, some members of an ultra-nationalist group called Śol nan Gàidheal (The seed of the Gaels) tried to set up an armed wing called Arm nan Gàidheal (Army of the Gaels). But the grouping fizzled out.
Glasgow Airport Attack Is Linked to Attempted London Bombings
By Alex Armitage
July 1 (Bloomberg) -- A sport-utility vehicle drove into Glasgow International Airport's terminal entrance and caught fire in a terrorist attack police said was related to two attempted London car bombings.
The U.K. Home Office yesterday raised its terrorist threat assessment to the highest level, "critical," from "severe," meaning an attack is expected imminently. Glasgow airport was closed and evacuated, and two people were arrested, police said. Two more arrests in connection with the events were made in Cheshire, northwest England, a police spokesman said.
The incident came as police were conducting one of their biggest manhunts after dismantling two car bombs made from gas canisters, gasoline and nails left in the heart of London's West End shopping and theater district two days ago.
"We believe the incident at Glasgow airport is linked to the events in London," Strathclyde Chief Constable Willie Rae told a televised news conference yesterday. "There are clearly similarities, and we can confirm that this is being treated as a terrorist incident."
Cobra, the Cabinet's emergency committee, met twice yesterday after convening the previous day in response to the London bombs, a Downing Street spokeswoman said.
"It is right to raise the level of security in airports and in crowded places in the light of the heightened threat," Prime Minister Gordon Brown said in a televised statement after the meeting. He said the London incidents and the Glasgow "attack" should remind people to be "vigilant."
The incidents prompted the biggest terrorism alert in the U.K. since authorities foiled an Islamist plot in August 2006 to blow up aircraft flying from Heathrow airport to the U.S. Terrorists killed 52 people in London on July 7, 2005, in suicide bombings on the subway and a bus.
"The real question is, is it part of a plan that is being directed by someone?" said David Bentley, an analyst in terrorism law at London-based policy research group Chatham House. "London today, Glasgow tomorrow, then maybe Birmingham or Manchester?"
In London, police were examining hours of images from security cameras to try to establish the cars' routes into central London, a police spokeswoman said yesterday. They discovered the first bomb in a Mercedes parked outside a packed nightclub in Haymarket, close to Piccadilly Circus, at 1:30 a.m. local time on June 29.
The second device, in another Mercedes parked between Haymarket and Trafalgar Square, was found hours after the car was towed for being parked illegally.
At about 3:15 p.m. yesterday a Jeep Cherokee crashed into the front doors of Glasgow airport's main passenger terminal and caught fire on impact from inflammable materials inside the vehicle, Rae said at the news conference.
The two men from the jeep were arrested. One was taken to the Royal Alexandra Hospital and was in critical condition because of burns. The hospital was then partly evacuated because "a suspect device was found" on him, Rae said. It was later re-opened after the device was taken away. The other man was in police custody.
The British Broadcasting Corp. reported that one of the men taken from the car had a suicide belt strapped around him. Police declined to comment.
One other person who had been at the terminal received hospital treatment for an injured leg, Rae said. Some passengers were stranded on planes on the tarmac because police didn't want to evacuate them through the terminal.
The men, one of whom was on fire, jumped from the Jeep after the crash, Stephen Clarkson, a witness, told the BBC.
Busiest Scottish Airport
"His whole body was on fire," Clarkson said. "Immediately after the airport official put him out with the extinguisher, he got up off the ground. He didn't seem like he was distressed."
Police attempted to restrain the man, "but the guy was quite strong and started fighting with the police," Clarkson told the BBC.
Glasgow, with a population of about 600,000, is Scotland's largest city, according to Glasgow city council's Web site. The city is about 40 miles west of Edinburgh and about 350 miles north of London.
Glasgow International Airport is eight miles west of the city center and is the busiest of Scotland's three main airports. More than 40 airlines use it to fly as many as 8.8 million passengers a year to 90 destinations, according to operator Grupo Ferrovial SA's BAA Ltd.
All flights in and out of the airport were suspended, Strathclyde Police said. Glasgow authorities also closed local roads and advised the public not to travel to the airport, the statement said.
One witness told the BBC that he saw one of the men from the vehicle dousing himself with petrol after the crash.
London Police Commissioner Ian Blair warned in February that "vehicle-borne weaponry is, as we see from Baghdad, the greatest danger that we can face." One of the car bombs dismantled in London was parked in front of a night club.
For the past 10 months, the Home Office had set the terrorist threat level to the U.K. at "severe," the second highest, meaning that an attack was highly likely. During that time police have been investigating about 30 terrorist plots.
London's Heathrow airport, Europe's busiest, introduced "additional security measures" following the Glasgow incident, it said in an e-mailed statement.
Heathrow wants people traveling to and from the airport "to avoid using private vehicles where at all possible," it said.
Security at U.S. airports was increased yesterday, ahead of the July 4th holiday, and the threat to commercial aviation remained high after terrorist incidents in the U.K., White House spokesman Tony Snow said.
Snow said the heightened security precautions at U.S. airports would mean more curb-side surveillance of arriving passengers and their luggage. The extra oversight might mean longer transit times than usual, he said. The threat level was unchanged.
"The most you're going to see right now is some inconvenience, some increased inconvenience for airline passengers, more likely at large airports than small," Snow told reporters in Kennebunkport, Maine, where President George W. Bush is staying at his family's vacation home for the weekend.
U.S. airports have been at the "orange" threat level, the second-highest on the government's five-level scale, since August 2006, when U.K. police said they foiled a plot to blow up aircraft bound for the U.S. The heightened alert included a ban on passengers taking more than a small quantity of liquids, aerosols and gels in their carry-on bags.
"The airport threat level is not changing, nor is the national, broader threat level," Snow said yesterday. "Those are remaining the same."