Terror probe after port explosive find

ANTI-terrorist experts were today called in to investigate a cache of explosives smuggled into Felixstowe port which could have been used to kill and maim.

By Richard Cornwell

ANTI-terrorist experts were today called in to investigate a cache of explosives smuggled into Felixstowe port which could have been used to kill and maim.

The find, exclusively revealed on The Evening Star's website yesterday, has today moved forward with the news that customs officers who discovered the consignment of weapons are thought to have foiled a major terrorist attack on the British mainland.

With the country still on red alert following the September 11 New York atrocities and the discovery in the past few days of an IRA hit list, there have been fears of fresh attacks on sensitive targets.

But today the authorities were keeping tight-lipped over the discovery at the port – believed to have been a consignment of Semtex.

Their reluctance to reveal information left many unanswered questions as a cloak of secrecy was thrown around the operation at Trinity Terminal.

Most Read

A top-level meeting was taking place at Scotland Yard with senior anti-terrorist branch experts at 10am to discuss the find and its implications.

The weapons were discovered inside a car which was hidden in a container which arrived at the port on Sunday evening.

It is believed the arms were found as part of a routine inspection, though there have been suggestions that they were detected with the new £2.5 million X-ray machine which was bought to search for smuggled cigarettes and tobacco.

A customs and excise spokesman said today that the service was liaising with the Metropolitan police over the recovery of a vehicle at the port.

He refused to say what had been contained in the vehicle or to confirm or deny whether it was explosives or guns.

It is understood no arrests have been made in connection with the haul.

Customs chiefs are refusing to say where the ship had come from before it reached Felixstowe and where the container was destined.

One customs source tellingly confided: "If the press had not found out about this incident, then no information would be released at all."

It was an indication of not only the scale of the find but also the importance of it for national security reasons.

Part of the busy port is sealed off while customs officials and other experts examined the car and the container, and carried out other investigations.

A bomb squad from the 621 Squadron Explosive Ordnance Disposal was called in "as a precaution" and to deal with the weapons.

No unauthorised personnel were allowed into the no-go zone, and although it is a major operation, it is understood that is no question of any threat to the safety of the general public or workers at the port.

Paul Davey, port corporate affairs manager, said: "It is a very sensitive issue and we have been told not to say anything and to refer all inquiries to customs."

Port operations had not been affected by the inquiries and all terminals were handling cargo as normal.

Suffolk police said they had not been involved in the operation, except for a watching brief. It is understood that Chief Constable Paul Scott Lee has been kept informed of the progress of the investigation.

The Metropolitan Police confirmed that its officers were involved but would not speculate on the role of the anti-terrorist branch.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter