Police have smashed a suspected ISIS terror cell who may have been plotting to bomb Christmas shoppers in Britain.
Army bomb squad teams cordoned off residential streets yesterday as they raided a suspected bomb-making factory.
Officers armed with assault rifles made dawn raids on six addresses in Derby, London and Burton upon Trent.
Five men and one woman were arrested, including one suspect said to be an asylum seeker who may not have been in Britain for long.
The raids follow months of surveillance by police and MI5, who believe they have foiled a plot to attack Britain linked to ‘international-related terrorism’, describing the operation to detain them as ‘significant’.
Security sources have claimed that their target may have been a shopping centre in the run up to Christmas.
Six people have been arrested on suspicion of terrorism offences in series of morning raids across England. Police are pictured in a street in Derby where some of the arrests took place
It is understood the group may have been working towards an attack, with anti-terror police describing the operation to detain them as ‘significant’. Forensics are pictured in Derby
Newcastle: Armed police patrol the Christmas Market in the city centre on Friday
Birmingham: Concrete barriers have been erected at Birmingham’s German Market as a security precaution amid fears of an attack
One told The Sun: ‘The suspects had been monitored for some time and were thought to be in the process of trying to obtain materials for a bomb. No specific target has been identified, although the concern is that any attack would have been in a crowded shopping place.’
An army bomb disposal unit was called to the Normanton area of Derby as a ‘precautionary measure’.
Counter-terrorism sources told the BBC the investigation was into a group believed to be working towards an attack. Police said the six arrests were linked to ‘international-related terrorism’.
Six properties in Derby, Burton and London are now being searched as part of a three force-strong probe, while those detained remain in police custody.
Four men from Derby aged 22, 27, 35 and 36, a 27-year-old man from Burton upon Trent and a 32-year-old woman from London were all arrested on suspicion of engaging in the preparation of an act of terrorism.
One suspect said to be an asylum seeker who may not have been in Britain for long.
No guns or explosive devices have been found, but police have recovered a large number of phones and computers that they hope will contain more evidence of the suspects’ activities.
One of the men detained worked at a chicken factory in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, it emerged today.
Another was made yesterday morning at a house of multiple occupancy in Derby’s Normanton district.
Ravi Kumar, 59, who owns the house, said: ‘I have leased the house to a housing association … As I understand it, the property is being used to house asylum seekers.’
A worker described the moment armed police stormed the warehouse and arrested his ‘popular’ colleague.
He said: ‘Police raided the factory last night and have arrested one of the workers. Armed police stormed it and took a man away who is quite a popular worker here.
‘It’s incredibly shocking to come into work and here about the arrest. This is just a normal factory. We have seen CCTV footage from it happening last night.
‘Everybody at the factory is talking about it. The CCTV shows him being held down on the floor.
Police guard the entrance to Leopold Street in Derby following arrests under the Terrorism Act
Investigation: Dozens of police officers moved in at dawn in a stealth raid in Normanton, Derby
Four men from Derby aged 22, 27, 35 and 36, a 27-year-old man from Burton upon Trent and a 32-year-old woman from London were all arrested on suspicion of terror offences
‘It’s even more shocking because the man is a really nice bloke. Everybody likes him. He works hard and just gets on with it.
‘He’s a great worker. He gets involved with people and is very active.
‘There’s a lot of people that work here but I never thought anything like this would happen.
‘We’ve never had trouble in the past. I’m lost for words.’
The investigation is being led by the North East counter terrorism unit supported by local officers from Derbyshire, Staffordshire and the Metropolitan Police.
Dozens of police officers moved in at dawn in a stealth raid in Normanton, Derby.
One resident said: ‘We have bomb squad, army and police swarming all over the street and they have sealed off the area.
‘I didn’t hear them arrive so they can’t have turned up with their sirens on.
‘There has been a notable police presence in the area for the last few weeks.’
A spokesman for the North East Counter Terrorism Unit said: ‘As a result of the arrests today, an Army Bomb Disposal Team has been called in as a precautionary measure to the Normanton area of Derby. No houses have been evacuated.
‘We thank the local public for their continued understanding in relation to the ongoing police activity.’
Forensics remove rubbish to search at a property on Leopold Street in Derby earlier today
Resident Faisal Akram, 21, said: ‘My sister lives two doors down from the house. I can’t imagine her shock. This is scary.’
Dramatic pictures showed forensic teams entering a terraced home in Normanton shortly after 8am yesterday.
The street is just a few hundred yards from Derby Islamic Centre on Sacheverel Street, and half-a-mile from the former home of British suicide bomber Kabir Ahmed.
In February 2012 he became the first person in the UK to be convicted of ‘distributing threatening written material to stir up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation.’
He was jailed for 15 months after he handed out leaflets outside a mosque showing a mannequin hanging from a tree in relation to gay people.
In November 2014 Ahmed killed himself in a suicide bombing attack on a police station in Iraq.
The raids follow the news that concrete barriers have been erected at Birmingham’s German Market to prevent suicide bombers as armed police patrol Newcastle amid fears of terror attacks.
The bollards were put up this week to safeguard the thousands who flock to the seasonal city centre attraction each day.
It is estimated that 5.5 million people will visit the market in Colmore Row and Bennetts Hill before it closes on December 29.
An emergency services staffer said: ‘We were told by the police they are there to prevent terrorist attacks’.
Just last month it was revealed counter-terror police are on high alert following tip-offs that ISIS and al-Qaeda plan attacks on shopping areas.
The threat level to Britain for international terrorism has been at ‘severe’ since 2014, meaning that an attack is ‘highly likely,’ although no known plot is underway.