Police have found a “suspicious substance” at an address in Birmingham after targeting a terror cell with reported links to the atrocities in Paris and Brussels. They insisted there was no danger to the public after the discovery during a raid on the home of a taxi driver in the Small Heath area of the city.
The revelations came as a suspected UK Isis cell was smashed yesterday during a string of raids by armed police across the country. It follows the arrest of four men and a woman in Birmingham and at Gatwick Airport as part of an investigation involving MI5 and authorities in France and Belgium.
The arrests, which Whitehall officials described as “significant”, came after months of surveillance work by British police and MI5. A source said of the Paris and Brussels attackers: “The network were targeting the London Eye and other places where crowds gather in the UK.”
Security authorities in the UK had been surveilling the Birmingham terror suspects since the recovery of slain Paris attack ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud’s mobile phone after he was killed after being cornered in the St Denis suburb of Paris just days after the attacks in the city.
The source said: “An examination of a phone used by Abaaoud also contained the same image of the Bullring shopping centre found on Abrini’s phone.”
Paris attacks terror suspect Mohamed Abrini had photographs of the recently refurbished Birmingham New Street train station, Bullring shopping centre and Aston Villa’s football ground stored in his mobile phone, sources close to the investigation have revealed.
The images were recovered along with stored contacts after investigators forensically examined the 31-year-old’s phone last week. The photographs are believed to have been taken during what investigators now believe to have been three separate visits by Abrini to the UK in 2015 including a final trip in July 2015.
Paris attacks ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud travelled to UK in October 2015 arriving on the Kent coast from continental Europe using false documents. He initially stayed in London where he met jihadist associates including one from Leicestershire.
The Leicester associate is linked to Baghdad Mezaine an Algerian former Al Qaida operative who was involved in a massive credit card/false documents “factory” busted in Leicester in mid 2000s. His gang were supplying money and forged documents to AQ linked jihadis across Europe and laid the foundations for a Midlands-centred criminal/jihadist network of trusted north African Islamists. It is understood that it is the rump of this established terror-funding network which ISIS has now accessed and used to help finance the Paris and Brussels attacks.
A security source said: “The Birmingham connection played a major role in the movement of cash in the run up to the Paris and Brussels attacks. We know that the Birmingham gang is involved in collecting illicit crime-generated cash in a sophisticated Europe wide money laundering scam directed by Islamists.”
Meanwhile, an 18-year-old man from Birmingham was held by counter-terrorism officers at Manchester Airport on Saturday after returning to Britain. His arrest (is) unrelated to the Brussels inquiry.