That is, football jihad, for those of you in the rest of the world. It seems that those ten suspected Islamic terrorists who were just arrested in Britain had more in mind than blowing up a shopping center. They may have been planning to blow themselves up at the Manchester United-Liverpool match last weekend. From The Sun:
A SUICIDE bomb plot to kill thousands of soccer fans at Saturday”s Manchester United-Liverpool match was dramatically foiled yesterday.
Armed cops seized ten terror suspects in dawn raids.
Intelligence chiefs believe al-Qaeda fanatics planned to blow themselves up amid 67,000 unsuspecting supporters. A source said: “The target was Old Trafford.”
The Islamic fanatics planned to sit all around the ground to cause maximum carnage.
They had already bought the tickets for various positions in the stadium, cops revealed last night.
But armed cops foiled the horrific plot – which could have killed thousands watching Manchester United’s home game against Liverpool on Saturday – in a series of dawn raids yesterday.
Ten people were arrested after a massive surveillance operation involving British anti-terror units and American authorities.
A police source said: “The plot involved several individual bombers in separate parts of the stadium.
“If successful, any such attack would have caused absolute carnage. Thousands of people could have been killed.”
The planned attack would have had an instant global impact as the game is being televised worldwide.
More than 400 police swooped yesterday after a “major terrorist figure” under surveillance moved to Manchester. Police and intelligence organisations believe he came to direct the massacre, which would have been the first al-Qaeda-style outrage in Britain.
Nine men and one woman were arrested “” all Iraqi Kurds or from North Africa.
Special Branch and the security services had been monitoring their movements and eavesdropping on mobile phone calls for months.
The operation also involved the US National Security Agency and GCHQ, the Government’s intelligence listening post.
Seven of the suspects were held in Manchester and one each in South Yorkshire, Staffordshire and the West Midlands.
It is believed all have links to extremist Islamic organisations. They were being quizzed at separate police stations around North West England last night.
But it was unclear whether any explosives or weapons had been recovered.
Bombers planning the Old Trafford massacre would have run the risk of being searched going into the ground before the 3pm kick-off.
Manchester United said away fans and those sitting in the higher tiers were frisked.
The identities and details of the suspects remained top secret last night “” even to many of those involved in the operation.
One of the raids was at a flat above Dolphins takeaway in Upper Brook Street, near Manchester University. The area has a large ethnic community with many properties converted into bedsits.
Irfaan Arif, who lives in a nearby flat, said: “I was woken at 4am, looked out of the window and saw a lot of armed police. There was loads of banging and shouting.”
The three-storey Dolphins building was cordoned off along with next-door properties housing AK Computers and Funky Fones.
Forensic experts in protective clothing moved in after the initial search teams.
A police spokesman confirmed: “A number of search warrants were executed under the Terrorism Act 2000. Ten people have been arrested on suspicion of being concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of terrorism.
“We appreciate the public interest in this but are unable to provide more specific details at this stage.”
Greater Manchester’s Assistant Chief Constable Dave Whatton said: “It was an anti-terrorism operation that has been going on for some time and it will continue in the future.
“This is the first action that the public have become aware of as it is overt. It is set against the background of an increased threat level across the country.
“The addresses raided will continue to be searched for some time. It is a complex inquiry.”
And he appealed: “Because of the national heightened threat levels we would still ask people to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity to police.”
Sheikh Mohammed bal Qadri, deputy director of a mosque in Upper Brook Street, said he did not believe any of his members were among those being held.
He added: “Since September 11 we have been very vigilant, as mosques should be.
“If I see a person who is new, I ask him why he is here and what he is doing and ask these kind of questions.
“We are against these evil acts. In the religion of Islam we have tolerance.” The raids follow revelations last week that police in Manchester had raised their terror alert level.
More than 50 officers were moved from regular duties to work on a task force committed to combating terrorism.
Police have also conducted detailed surveys of land around Manchester Airport to identify sites which could be used to launch missiles attacks on aircraft.
Manchester Central MP Tony Lloyd said yesterday: “Clearly this is one of the most difficult levels of policing. But when police get the information to act successfully the whole of the British public will applaud their actions.”