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Police 'unable to rule out terrorism' as motive after RAF base abduction attempt

Published 21/07/2016

Police investigating the attempted knifepoint abduction of an RAF serviceman said there may have been an element of "pre-planning" and they cannot rule out terrorism as a motive.

The married serviceman, who is in his late 20s, was out running near RAF Marham, in Norfolk, on Wednesday when he was grabbed by a man, who attempted to drag him towards a nearby car.

Police officers were on patrol around RAF Marham after the incident
Police officers were on patrol around RAF Marham after the incident

The victim knocked the first attacker to the floor before an accomplice, carrying a knife, helped him up before both men fled.

The serviceman was said to have been left "very, very shaken by his ordeal".

Norfolk Police Detective Superintendent Paul Durham said: "I can confirm we are treating this as an attempted abduction and detailed inquiries are being carried out at the scene to establish the full circumstances.

"The motivation for the attack remains unclear at this time, and whilst we are currently unable to discount terrorism, there are a number of other possible hypotheses. We are therefore carrying out a thorough investigation to understand what has happened, why and who is responsible."

When asked at a press conference if he thought it was a pre-planned attack, Mr Durham replied: "I would be speculating at the moment but it is difficult to envisage a situation where perhaps there wasn't an element of pre-planning, but it's too early to say for sure."

He added: "It was a regular running route for the victim, it's a regular running route for a number of personnel within RAF Marham, it's a well-trodden path."

Police are keen to trace the two men, a dark-coloured people carrier and also the "military-style" knife, with a two-and-a-half to three-inch blade.

Mr Durham said it was believed the first man shouted something at the victim, who did not hear what he said because he was listening to music.

Norfolk Police released descriptions of two suspects of Middle Eastern appearance as military personnel were reportedly sent a memo warning them about the incident .

The first suspect is described as between 20 and 30 years old, about 6ft tall, of athletic, stocky build, with dark hair which was long on top. He had a well-groomed beard, was of Middle Eastern origin in appearance, with a dark skin tone and he wore dark casual clothing.

The second suspect is described as being between 20 and 30 but younger than the first suspect and of a slimmer build. He was approximately 5ft 10in tall, clean-shaven, with short dark hair. He was also of Middle Eastern origin in appearance and wore a white t-shirt and dark shorts.

The force also said military bases were increasingly vigilant after the incident.

Nick Dean, Assistant Chief Constable, said: "The vigilance in and around not only RAF Marham but military bases has clearly increased as a result of this incident, however the wider security threat to the public and in terms of military bases remains unchanged at this time."

A note seen by the Daily Mirror and addressed to all service personnel in the wake of the incident warns: "2x Asian males approached a serviceman who was running approximately 1 mile outside of RAF Marham main gate and tried to bundle him into their vehicle.

"The vehicle was a dark-coloured Ford Galaxy.

"The Asian males were carrying a knife when the serviceman was approached."

A further memo advised military staff to keep a low profile and not to be alone on foot or on a bicycle in any uniform or clothing which identifies them as being with the forces.

An RAF spokesman refused to comment on the memos, and in a separate statement said: "We are aware of an ongoing police operation in relation to an incident near RAF Marham.

"It would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage."

Norfolk Police also refused to comment on the statement.

One road was sealed off on Thursday and there was a heightened police presence, but the base's Families and Friends Day was going ahead, with hundreds of visitors expected.

Detectives have set up a dedicated hotline appealing for information about the two suspects who are still at large following an attempted abduction at RAF Marham.

A Norfolk Police spokesman said sightings of a dark-coloured people carrier in the King's Lynn area of Norfolk, which the two men drove off in yesterday afternoon, were of particular interest.

The airbase was on high alert today, with a roadblock in place on one route into Marham and police patrolling the streets.

However, the airbase's popular Families and Friends Day was allowed to go ahead, with thousands of people watching a display by the Red Arrows.

The police's hotline number is 0800 056 0154 and people can also call 0207 158 0011.

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