GLASGOW (Reuters) -British police arrested a fifth person on Sunday after a fuel-filled jeep was rammed into Scotland’s busiest airport in what police said was a terrorist attack linked to failed car bombings in London.
The arrests included a 26-year-old man and a 27-year-old woman seized on a major highway in northern England on Saturday night and another man, 26, who was detained in Liverpool, in the northwest of England, on Sunday.
Those arrests were in addition to two men, who witnesses described as Asians, who were taken into custody on Saturday immediately after they slammed a Jeep Cherokee into Glasgow airport and set the vehicle ablaze.
Most of the Asian population in Britain come from the sub-continent, including India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
The attack, which caused five slight injuries and damaged the airport entrance, came barely 36 hours after two car bombs loaded with fuel, gas canisters and nails were found on the busy streets of central London primed to detonate.
Police said the man arrested in Liverpool was seized in connection with both events and said warrants were being used to search two addresses near Liverpool.
Following the series of threats, Britain raised its national security level to “critical,” meaning the risk of another attack was imminent, and increased security at airports.
“We are dealing with a long-term threat. It is not going to go away in the next few weeks or months,” Prime Minister Gordon Brown, himself a Scot who took office only last Wednesday, said in a sombre appraisal of the terrorist threat facing Britain.
Outside Glasgow, Scotland’s biggest city, police in white body suits searched houses in a town a short drive from the airport and set up forensic tents behind one building.
Neighbours said two Asian men had moved into one of the houses a month ago but had kept very much to themselves.
“I don’t remember seeing them at all,” said Mae Gordon, 67. “They were the only people around here you would never see.”
Of the two detained at Glasgow airport, one was badly burnt and listed in critical condition in hospital.
Britain has seen an increase in terrorism-related attacks since the September 11 strikes on the United States and since it joined U.S. forces in invading Iraq in 2003. Some analysts believe the latest attacks may be designed to exert pressure on Britain to withdraw its troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Brown convened a meeting of top security chiefs to discuss measures to handle the first big test of his leadership. He also appeared on BBC television on Sunday to discuss events.
“Irrespective of Iraq, irrespective of Afghanistan, irrespective of what is happening in different parts of the world, we have an international organisation trying to inflict the maximum damage on civilian life in pursuit of a terrorist cause that is totally unacceptable to most people,” he said.
“Terrorism can never be justified as an act of faith. It is an act of evil in all circumstances.”
In the attack in Glasgow, 400 miles north of London, witnesses said two men intent on causing harm raced a green Jeep Cherokee into the glass doors of the airport terminal before dousing it in petrol and engulfing it in flames.
Police said the attack was linked to the thwarted London car bombs but did not say how. The London plot bore the hallmarks of a previous al Qaeda plan to attack London with fuel-filled cars, and another militant plan to bomb a major night club.
The series of plots come almost two years since the July 7, 2005 attacks on London’s transport system, when four British Islamists blew themselves up and killed 52 commuters. Three of the four bombers were from families who had come to Britain from the subcontinent. All four had visited Pakistan.
British Muslim groups condemned the series of incidents and urged Muslims to cooperate with the authorities.
“We are utterly appalled by this sinister plot and commend the professionalism of the security services in aborting it,” the British Muslim Initiative said in a statement.