Belfast Telegraph

Home News UK

Five arrested over potential threat to Pope Benedict

Police arrested five men today over a suspected plot to harm the Pope.

Scotland Yard officers swooped on several people after information emerged that Pope Benedict XVI could be in danger.

A multimillion-pound operation was put in place to protect the Pope during his tour of Scotland, London and the West Midlands.

The men were arrested by officers from the Met's Counter Terrorism Command shortly before 6am.

The suspects, aged 26, 27, 36, 40 and 50, were held under the Terrorism Act 2000 at business premises in central London.

Sources said some of the five men are of Arab origin and it is not yet known if they are British citizens.

They were taken to a central London police station, where they will be interviewed by detectives.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said the business was being searched, as well as homes in north and east London.

A spokesman said: "Initial searches have not uncovered any hazardous items.

"Today's arrests were made after police received information. Following initial inquiries by detectives, a decision was made to arrest the five men.

"Following today's arrests the policing arrangements for the Papal visit were reviewed and we are satisfied that our current policing plan remains appropriate.

"The itinerary has not changed. There is no change to the UK threat level."

Father Federico Lombardi, a spokesman for the Vatican, said the Pope was informed of the threat during his visit to St Mary's University College, in Twickenham, south west London.

He was 30 minutes late for prayers in St Mary's Chapel, but it is not known if this is because of the unexpected intervention.

Father Lombardi said: "We are totally confident in the work of the police and Scotland Yard. We have no particular preoccupation with this.

"The police have already said that the information that they have collected until now demonstrates there is no need to change anything on the programme of the Pope and the security measures."

Father Lombardi added that the Pope remains "totally calm" and "happy" and will continue to enjoy his trip.

Sources said the accuracy of the information received by police is yet to be checked and stressed that no suspicious items have been found.

The source refused to discuss the nature of the tip-off, but said it was only received a relatively short time before the arrests were made.

A huge security and public order operation swung into action yesterday as the Pope touched down in Britain.

Thousands of officers are involved in the operation from forces including the Met, Strathclyde, Lothian and Borders, West Midlands and British Transport Police.

The cost of policing the Pope's visit to Britain could reach £1.5 million and is being co-ordinated by South Yorkshire Chief Constable Meredydd Hughes.

Senior officers said there was no information ahead of the visit to suggest any "specific group" wanted to attack the Pope.

But they warned people not to underestimate the "passion and the fervour" the visit would bring.

Police also interviewed mentally unstable people who they feared may pose a threat to the Pope.

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph