Police make terror arrests 'as part of Europe-wide investigation into Islamic extremism'

The police scene at Grecian Mill in Bolton
The police scene at Grecian Mill in Bolton -Credit:MEN

Three men have been arrested on suspicion of terrorism in raids as part of a Europe-wide investigation into Islamic extremism, according to reports.

Investigators have been given further time to interview the three men - aged 35, 36 and 51 - on suspicion of commission, preparation and instigation of acts of terrorism.

The probe is ongoing following raids at addresses in Wigan and Bolton on Wednesday evening. Sources have told the Manchester Evening News that the arrests were "significant" and "concerned Islamic extremism".

Greater Manchester Police has declined to explain the nature of the investigation. In an update posted on the force's social media channels on Friday night, officers said North West counter terror cops have been granted a warrant of further detention for the three men in custody. "This allows officers to keep the men in custody for a further five days," said the statement.

At the time of the arrests, Assistant Chief Constable Rob Potts, who holds responsibility for counter terrorism policing in the North West, said: “This evening we have executed a number of planned warrants as part of an ongoing counter terrorism investigation.

“Three men have been taken into custody for questioning and scenes remain in place as we conduct further enquiries. Today’s activity has been the culmination of much detailed planning and we have put measures in place to minimise disruption to local residents as much as possible.

“I understand that any time arrests of this nature are made it will cause concerns and people will naturally have questions. Although we can’t go into specific details of the investigation at this stage, I want to reassure members of the public that we do not currently believe there to be any wider threat linked to today’s activity.

Police at the scene on Fairclough Street in Wigan
Police at the scene on Fairclough Street in Wigan -Credit:MEN

Residents at one of the addresses police searched, on Crankwood Road in Abram, Wigan, have described their shock at developments on Wednesday night. A house on the usually 'quiet' street became the focus of the huge investigation. It came as numerous scenes were combed by cops as part of the wider operation.

Video footage captured the moment a suspect was arrested and dragged out of a busy gym by police.

Speaking outside his home on Crankwood Road, David Evans - who recently ran in the local elections - said: "You can only reassure residents so much. It's worrying with it being suspected terrorism offences. It's the not knowing."

Another neighbour, who asked not to be named, added: "I'm a bit worried. Nobody has ever heard of Crankwood. It's so quiet and that's why I like it, because you feel safe."

Describing the moment police descended on the street, Mr Evans added: "I saw the tactical aid unit arrive, a riot van - and it was constant with CID. It was about half seven."

He said that just before 10pm, a man with his hood up was led away. People watching were told to move on. A man, 37, said "I came home last night and there were two TAU vans, CID, tape was up. There were four to six officers standing outside. It's not usual for a place like this. We're a tight-knit community. It gives you some reassurance in the police. At the end of the day, if they were plotting, they've sorted it."

A mum who moved the road five years ago, said: "It's horrible. I normally feel protected down here, because it's so tucked away. I don't feel safe. There are a lot of children on this street."

Another neighbour, who said they had lived on the road for 29 years, added: "I can't believe it, I'm not happy at all. It's shocking." While a 50-year-old resident, who has lived on Crankwood Road for 28 years, said she was 'gobsmacked'.

Neighbours said those living at the property 'kept to themselves, although some reported hearing arguments from the house. Another neighbour said: "I feel bad. I'm glad my grandkids aren't here today, because they would have been upset. My daughter has taken my wife out because it's a bit of a shock. You never know who's going to come."

On Wednesday evening, raids were also carried out in Bolton, Great Lever and Hindley. A police scene remained in place on Thursday at a house on Fairclough Street in Hindley.

One man, who spoke to the MEN about the raids, said: "In the year I've been here, I've never seen police. It's worrying. I've got two kids and I have them over the weekend. I don't fancy bringing them here."

"We have a little girl," another man said. "There's a lot of kids in the street so I can imagine a few families are concerned."

And another neighbour added: "I saw the police here last night when I was putting my little boy to bed. Nobody knew what was going on. It's quite a scary thing when you don't know what's going on with your neighbours. You don't see stuff like this everyday. It's a shock.”

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