A desperate search took place in a rundown block of flats in Highgate Street, Liverpool last night for the terrorist bomb factory from which a suspected al-Qaeda cell planned to launch a devastating attack in Manchester over Easter.
Ten of the 12 men arrested following raids on Wednesday were Pakistani nationals who entered Britain on student visas. All were from the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan, the heartland of al-Qaeda and mujahidin activity. They appear to have exploited a visa regime described by a minister last week as “the major loophole in Britain’s border controls”.
Sources said police had arrested the man they suspected was the ring-leader, Abid Naseer, 22, at an address in Galsworthy Avenue in Cheetham Hill, Manchester. He is said to be from the tribal areas of Pakistan where the Taliban and al-Qaeda have established their base.
One of Naseer's housemates, Hamza Shenwari, was arrested on the nearby M602. Abdul Khan was arrested in Liverpool, as was John Moores University student Muhammad Adil, who was later released.
Among the locations raided on Wednesday afternoon was the Cyber Net Café in Cheetham Hill, where it is thought the men communicated using emails.
The alleged Manchester plot represents a significant shift in tactics by terror groups based in Pakistan who view Britain as a prime target. Between 2002 and 2006 their emphasis was on training young Britons. But if these plot allegations are proven, they suggest that planners are now exporting operatives to Britain.
Some of the suspects were watched by MI5 agents as they filmed themselves outside the Trafford Centre on the edge of Manchester, the Arndale Centre in the city centre, and the nearby St Ann's Square and intelligence services had intercepted “chatter” suggesting that an attack could occur as early as this weekend.
You remember Enoch Powell's controversial "Rivers of Blood" speech (made 20th April 1968 in Birmingham) in opposition to mass Commonwealth immigration to Britain which resulted in him being sacked from the Shadow Cabinet.
In the speech, Powell referred to a letter he had received detailing the experiences of one of his constituents in Wolverhampton. The writer described the fate of an elderly woman who was supposedly the last white person living in her street. She had repeatedly refused applications from non-whites requiring rooms-to-let, which resulted in her being called a racist outside her home and receiving excrement through her letterbox.
As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding. Like the Roman, I seem to see 'the River Tiber foaming with much blood'. That tragic and intractable phenomenon which we watch with horror on the other side of the Atlantic but which there is interwoven with the history and existence of the States itself, is coming upon us here by our own volition and our own neglect. Indeed, it has all but come. In numerical terms, it will be of American proportions long before the end of the century. Only resolute and urgent action will avert it even now.
I don't suppose Enoch Powell was anticipating the threat of terrorism back in 1958 but he did forsee the problems that allowing mass immigration into the country could cause.
You can't help but feel that Powell was right and that the chickens are now coming home to roost in Britain.