'They had their guns pointing at two Asian lads'
AS a team of undercover officers from Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism unit surrounded a car on a residential street in the Preston Road area of Blackburn on Tuesday morning, dozens of residents, alerted by the sound of shouting and screeching brakes outside, ran to their front windows, simultaneously captivated and terrified by the surreal events on their doorstep.
Tincie Hill, 27, watched as a team of heavily-armed officers surrounded a gold Mercedes saloon on the street outside her house.
She said: "One of the police cars had blocked the Mercedes at the front and another car down its side.
"Both of the men in the car were Asian. The driver had a beard. The passenger was laid in the gutter. Two policemen had guns trained on him.
"The driver was on his knees at the back of the car with guns pointing at him as well."
Her neighbour Ruth Lazell, 40, also saw the incident unfold outside her front gate.
She recalled: "There were armed police officers telling us to go back inside the house, about 15 or 20 of them in all.
"They had their guns pointing at two Asian lads who were on the floor outside the car.
"There were four other police officers there who had blue forensic suits on.
"The officers put plastic bags around the two Asian lads’ arms and legs and then put what looked like white paper suits over the rest of them.
"Their hands were tied together and then they were taken away."
The two women in Blackburn were not alone in what they saw.
Witnesses across England described how armed officers had similarly swooped into their streets on Tuesday morning in a series of related couter-terrorism raids in London, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, as well as Blackburn.
Scotland Yard said two arrests had been made in Blackburn; one in Watford, Hertfordshire; one in Luton, Bedfordshire; five in Willesden, north London - with one person later released; one in Wembley, north London; one in Sudbury, north London, and two in Paddington, London.
By mid-afternoon yesterday, the Home Office had confirmed that those arrested were all Muslim men in their twenties and thirties.
They were apprehended on suspicion of being concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.
A matter of hours after the raids all the suspects had been transferred at high-speed to Paddington Green police station in central London to be interviewed by officers from the Metropolitan Police’s Anti- Terrorist Branch.
In Luton witnesses said an Asian man was pulled from his car by seven armed police officers as he pulled into a side street off the A6 Bedford Road.
Leigh Mayes, 70, who saw the undercover operation from the window of his house, said officers carrying semi-automatic weapons, held the man against his maroon hatchback for nearly three hours while forensic teams carried out searches.
He said: "They must have followed him. They had him outside, handcuffed, and stood with him.
"They just stood there in the blazing sunshine and also throughout the heavy storm."
Roger Walker, who lives next door to a house in Bushey, Hertfordshire, that was raided at the same time, gave an account of events.
He said: "When I got home around 3pm on Tuesday there were police cars and policemen all over the place.
"A police van and a people- carrier were backed up to the front door and officers were going in and out of the house.
"I was told they couldn’t tell me anything at that time but I would be told what was going on later. They later told me they would be here all night and the next day.
"Two officers have been standing guard on the patio at the back of the house all night and there have been two at the front as well."
Mr Walker later said an Indian couple, in their fifties, live at the house with their son, who he thought was in his early twenties. Their daughter, also in her twenties, married and moved out two weeks ago.
He added: "Quite often people would be coming and going from the house, but they never made any noise and there was certainly nothing to suggest anything suspicious.
"About three years ago, the daughter became very religious and soon after the son did too."
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