An second active terrorist plot has been foiled in London on the same day, after armed police raided a house in the north-west of the capital, shooting one of the female suspects.
A woman in her 20s was shot and injured by counter-terror officers in the raid, which started just after 7pm on Thursday with CS gas being fired into the Willesden property. Witnesses said the injured woman, who was wearing a long dress and hijab, shouted at paramedics not to touch her body as she was treated at the scene.
The raid was carried out by elite counter-terrorism specialist firearms officers (CTSFO) and is believed to have been the first time the unit has opened fire during an operation. Six people, including a 16-year-old boy, have been arrested and properties continued to be searched in London and Kent on Friday.
Scotland Yard said the Willesden house had been “under observation by counter-terrorism officers as part of an ongoing intelligence-led operation” but added that the incident was not connected to the suspected attempted terrorist attack in Westminster earlier in the day.
Alexandra Sabanov, 28, who lives next door to the property, said the couple who lived in the raided top-floor flat were Asian Muslims who often visited a nearby mosque. “I think they were around my age. They spoke English … It was English just like us, with a British accent; London, like us,” she said.
She was one of several neighbours who said they had seen unusual activity on the road in the days before the raid, including several Vauxhall Corsas containing groups of white men who they speculated were police officers.
Ruth Haile, another neighbour, said that when the arrested woman came out of the house she had a bandage on her left side and was given first aid. “She shouted: ‘Don’t touch me! Don’t touch me!’ They cut all her dress,” she said. “It was a black dress with a hijab.”
Maxine McKenzie, 48, a marketing director who lives on the street, said: “I heard gunshots, because they are unmistakable when you hear them. I looked outside and there were lots of police, some plainclothes, some uniformed, obviously firearms officers. I saw them arrest somebody and they walked her down the road to here and handcuffed her and took her away.”
Sabanov added she had heard a woman “screaming really loud” shortly after the armed police arrived. “We were just about to go shopping until we heard bang, bang, bang, bang, went to the window, and saw a number of armed police just there with their guns pointing at our nextdoor neighbour’s window.
“They were in the garden – they were everywhere. They swarmed the whole house practically. I wasn’t even allowed in my garden; they were telling me: ‘[There’s] armed police, go inside.’”
The woman was in a serious but stable condition and was under a police guard at a London hospital, police said. She had not been arrested due to her condition. The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) started an investigation into the shooting, in line with protocol. Investigators are believed to have initial accounts from officers involved in the raid and will get full statements in the next 48 hours.
In Harlesden Road, a 16-year-old boy and a 20-year-old woman were held at the targeted property and a 20-year-old man was detained nearby on Thursday evening. A 43-year-old woman was arrested in Kent and properties continued to be searched. All four were arrested on suspicion of the commission, preparation and instigation of terrorist acts under section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000.
“Two further arrests were made when a man and a woman, both aged 28, returned to the address late at night,” Basu said.
CTSFOs are trained and equipped to the standards of special forces units such as the SAS. Their firearms include SIG516 semi-automatic weapons and they regularly train alongside armed forces. They are trained in forcing entry into buildings under dangerous circumstances.