9 Apr 2009

Twelve men have been arrested during a major anti-terror operation which was triggered by a top police officer's security blunder. Skip related content

Eight addresses in Liverpool, Lancashire and Greater Manchester were raided by counter-terrorism police in connection with a suspected al-Qaeda plot.

One man was held at Liverpool John Moores University while four others were arrested in the Toxteth and Wavertree areas of the city during the operation by officers from the North West Counter-Terrorism Unit, Merseyside Police, Greater Manchester Police and Lancashire Constabulary.

In Greater Manchester, two men were held at an internet cafe in Cheetham Hill Road and two others were arrested at an address in Galsworthy Road while another man was detained on the M602.

In Clitheroe, Lancashire, two security guards were reportedly arrested at a Homebase store.

It has emerged that the raids had to be brought forward after Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Bob Quick was earlier photographed walking into 19 Downing Street carrying sensitive documents, some of which could be read.

One of the papers, which was clearly marked "secret", is said to have carried an outline briefing of an ongoing counter-terrorism operation and reportedly included the names of several senior officers, locations and details about the nature of the threat.

Mr Quick, the UK's most senior anti-terror officer, had been due to meet Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Home Secretary Jacqui Smith. He has apologised to Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson, saying he "deeply regretted" the incident.

At the Liverpool university, terrified students were held inside the main library on Maryland Street for up to 30 minutes as two Asian men in their mid to late 20s were searched by police.

Craig Ahmed, 24, a business student from Maghull, Merseyside, said: "Suddenly there was all shouting and commotion outside so I went to the window and saw about eight police officers.

"One of them was armed and was pointing his gun at two men who were ordered to lie face down on the ground. For about half an hour they held the men on the floor. The police were shouting things at them but I couldn't hear what was being said."

Elsewhere, there were multiple arrests as armed police raided an internet cafe and other addresses in Cheetham Hill in Manchester.

Police also sealed off a terrace of properties in Earle Road in the Wavertree area of Liverpool while arrests were made at a Homebase store in Clitheroe, Lancashire.

Meanwhile, Whitehall officials are said to be furious about the security breach.

But it is not the first time Mr Quick, who returned to the Met last year from Surrey where he was chief constable, has become embroiled in controversy. Last December he apologised for an outburst in which he accused senior Conservatives of leaking a story about his wife's business interests.

Mr Quick faced unwanted newspaper headlines after it emerged his wife Judith was running a luxury car hire firm from their home and details of their address were published on a website.

The stories followed hot on the heels of his involvement in overseeing the arrest of shadow immigration minister Damian Green as part of a Whitehall leak inquiry.

Speaking at his home, Mr Quick told a reporter his wife and children were forced to move out because of security concerns sparked by the public furore. The comments were an unusual response from a man who regularly meets members of the global intelligence community and whose role thrives on discretion.


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