Four held after Sheffield terror raid smashes Christmas attack plot
A PLOT to bomb hundreds of Christmas shoppers and revellers has been smashed by a series of anti-terror raids, it was believed last night.
Counter terrorism officers and MI5 have carried out 'Islamist related' raids
Trio aged 22, 36, 41, arrested in Sheffield and man, 31, arrested in Chesterfield
Follows chilling warnings from ISIS threatening to attack festive events in the UK
Specialist counter terrorism police officers kicked a door off its hinges as they arrested three men aged 22, 36 and 41, at addresses in Sheffield on suspicion of being concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.
A 31-year-old man was arrested at an address in Chesterfield on suspicion of the same offence.
All four were arrested by anti-terror police working with MI5 in the 'Islamist related' investigation, with people evacuated from their homes and schools placed on lock down this morning.
Terrified residents described hearing explosions during the dramatic early morning raids on homes, offices and a community centre.
They saw bomb disposal officers removing 'packages' - which come amid chilling warnings from ISIS threatening to attack festive events in the UK.
Officers swooped on five properties early yesterday morning after intelligence led them to suspect a Jihadi cell was preparing a wholesale festive massacre.
In at least one of the raids nearby residents reported hearing an explosion at 5.30am.
Last night four suspects were being quizzed over the alleged plot, which is thought to have been aimed at a major British city outside London.
Investigations appeared to involve a two-bedroom flat above the Mermaid fish and chip shop in Chesterfield, Derbyshire.
PA / BUSINESS LINK Terror raids shocked Sheffield and Chesterfield yesterday
A man aged 31 was led out of the property in just boxer shorts while neighbours were evacuated to the nearby Proact Stadium, home of Chesterfield FC.
Meanwhile across the county border in South Yorkshire three other suspects aged 22, 36 and 41 were detained in Sheffield.
Police went in after MI5 intelligence indicated the gang were “getting close” to an outrage.
It followed IS threats to attack Christmas markets, with chilling images of a bloodied knife and a tied and bound Santa Claus.
Festive markets in Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham and Sheffield have all stepped up security.
Authorities face an unprecedented threat, with 500 investigations running at any one time and nine plots foiled since the Westminster atrocity in March.
An Army bomb squad was deployed to Chesterfield as police feared an explosive device might already have been assembled.
One of the raided properties was a house in the Meersbrook area of Sheffield, where locals said they heard an explosion.
Student Lizzie Fogarty, 27, said people went to and from the property “all the time” and she had thought it was a half-way house for refugees.
Police also searched a house in the city’s Burngreave area, a barber’s shop and adjacent flat in Stocksbridge and a former Irish club which is now used as a mosque and community centre.
One Burngreave resident said he was woken by three loud bangs and looked out to see six men with rifles in camouflage and full body armour.
Shortly afterwards another man was put into a police van.
Barber’s shop owner Mohammed Ojaky, 31, said officers told him they were looking for a man from Eastern Europe they thought was linked to the place.
Mr Ojaky, from Kurdistan, said: “There were 15 or 20 and many were armed. It was a big shock.
"I gave them details of all my staff but I did not know this man.”
Simon Fox, 22, who lives near another of the Sheffield properties, said: “We have seen Army, police, a couple of packages being removed by the bomb unit.
“You just don’t expect this to happen around here.”
Authorities believe that the gang’s intentions were focused “out of the capital” and were aimed at causing “mass devastation” in a main regional population centre.
An official spokesman said a bang heard by some residents was not an explosion but the sound of an entry being forced.
He added: “The arrests were intelligence-led and pre-planned.
“We recognise people may have concerns. We would ask them to remain alert but not alarmed.”
TERROR ARRESTS: WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR
Three men, aged 22, 36 and 41, were arrested in a series of dawn raids carried out simultaneously at addresses in Sheffield this morning
A fourth man, aged 31, was arrested in Chesterfield after another raid. -
The raids, carried out by specialist officers from the North East Counter Terrorism Unit, were carried out at the suspects' homes
Five homes in Sheffield and Chesterfield were raided in total - including two in Burngreave, one in Meersbrook and another in Stocksbridge, and all remain under police guard
The Army's Bomb Disposal Unit is at the address in Chesterfield, and the area has been evacuated
The men have all been taken to a police station in West Yorkshire for questioning
All four men are being held on suspicion of being concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism under section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000