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Four arrested over suspected Christmas terror plot

jen mills

Four arrested over suspected Christmas terror plot
Police outside a property in Chesterfield, Derbyshire (Picture: PA)

Four men have been arrested after a major police raid to stop a suspected Christmas terror plot.

An Army bomb squad was deployed to Chesterfield and officers also raided three parts of Sheffield this morning.

Three men, aged 22, 36 and 41, were detained at different addresses in Sheffield, and a 31-year-old was held in Chesterfield.

Residents were woken by police blowing open the door of a run-down terraced house in the Meersbrook area of Sheffield, as their street was swamped by heavily armed officers in protective gear.

Four arrested over suspected Christmas terror plot
The bomb squad attend a house in Chesterfield near Sheffield (Picture: SWNS)

A few miles further north, in the Burngreave area, a mosque and community centre was sealed off with local people telling similar stories of being woken at 6am by a series of loud bangs and camouflaged officers with guns.

Two other raids are understood to have happened at a flat a short distance from the centre in Burngreave and a property in the town of Stocksbridge, just north of Sheffield.

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The operation was mounted as police and MI5 tackle a terror threat seen as unprecedented.

In addition to five attacks in London and Manchester, Home Secretary Amber Rudd revealed earlier this month that security agencies have foiled nine plots since the Westminster atrocity in March.

Counter-terror teams are running about 500 live investigations involving 3,000 individuals at any one time, while there is also a wider pool of 20,000 subjects of previous probes.

Four arrested over suspected Christmas terror plot
Four people were arrested (Picture: SWNS)

In Chesterfield, Simon Fox, 22, of Shaw Street, said: ‘We have seen Army, police from all over, we have seen a couple of packages being removed by the bomb disposal unit. You just don’t expect this to happen in such a small town.’

One person said the police arrived in the street at 4.30am.

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A woman, who did not wish to be named and lives opposite the property that was raided on Kings Road North, said: ‘I was watching telly and saw police knocking on a neighbour’s door.

‘The next minute they were banging on my door and shouted, ‘you have 10 minutes to get out, we’re evacuating’. I was really panicking.’

In Meersbrook, retired Joan Miller, 63, said she was woken by a loud bang at 5.30am and looked out of her window to see plain-clothed armed officers in the street.

Four arrested over suspected Christmas terror plot
Police officers guard a flat on Verdon Street in Sheffield (Picture: SWNS)
Four arrested over suspected Christmas terror plot
A police officer enters the Fatima Community Centre, on Brunswick Road (Picture: SWNS)

Ms Miller said: ‘It was a very loud bang. It shook the house. I pulled the curtains and saw lots of armed men in the street, so I kept watching because that was quite extraordinary.’

Ms Miller and others in the street said they did not know who lived in the house opposite, which is in a dilapidated state.

She said: ‘All sorts of different people have been living there.’

Four arrested over suspected Christmas terror plot
Police activity at the Fatima Community Centre, Brunswick Road, Sheffield (Picture: PA)

A man living near the Fatima Community Centre, on Brunswick Road, said he was woken by a three louds bangs in quick succession and then saw at least six men with rifles in camouflage and body armour.

He said he saw them bring out one man and put him in a police van.

All four of the arrested men were taken to a police station in West Yorkshire for questioning. They were arrested on suspicion of being concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism under Section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

Police said the arrests were ‘intelligence-led and pre-planned’ as part of an investigation by Counter Terrorism Policing North East (CTPNE).

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