The London anti-terror agency arrested four men over a suspected plot to mount an attack in Britain and believed to have links to Syria and Islamic State (ISIS).
Counter-terrorism officials in London said one of the group may have had access to weapons and this was reflected by the fact armed officers led the anti-terror raid on his address.
The four men, aged 20 to 21, were being questioned at police stations in central London. The Metropolitan police said officers from its counter-terrorism command had arrested the four “on suspicion of being concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism”. Scotland Yard said:
“One of the men aged 21 was Tasered during his arrest. He was not injured and did not require medical treatment. A number of residential addresses and vehicles are being searched by specialist officers in west and central London as part of the investigation. The searches are ongoing. These arrests and searches are part of an ongoing investigation into Islamist-related terrorism.”
It is not believed that explosives were involved in any plot, although anti-terror searches were described as at an early stage.
A source told the Press Association that officers believed the raids were an early disruption of what could have been a “significant plot.”
It is understood that one of the four has a connection to Isis, the Islamist extremist group that has captured large swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria and has been responsible for the beheading of Western hostages, including two Britons.
Foreign policy and security analysts have been warning that there could be a retaliation in the UK and London in response to British fighter planes joining the US and some Arab states in bombing raids on Isis in Iraq. An Isis member last week called in a video for Muslims in Britain to rise up to cause terror in the country.
However, the anti-terror arrests are not connected to the Isis member with a British accent shown in videos of the beheadings. Although the man was masked in the videos, the FBI claims he has been identified.
Surveillance led counter-terrorism officers to assess that one of the men may have access to weapons, hence the decision to send armed officers to one of the addresses. It was at that address that the Taser was used.
The London anti-terror raids followed a pre-planned operation, with at least some of the men having been subject to monitoring by counter-terrorism investigators for some time.
Following a joint meeting between SO15 and MI5 at an executive liaison group, the decision was made to disrupt any plot. Counter-terrorism investigators believed they had enough material to stage arrests.
The decision to disrupt a suspected plot is usually taken because it is believed there is too great a chance of an attack being staged or because anti-terror investigators believe they have enough evidence to test their suspicions through the courts.
However, some past high-profile terror arrests have been based on intelligence that turned out to be inaccurate, and have led to accusations that London police and MI5 have ramped up the nature of possible plots.