Four suspected Islamist terrorists have been arrested by armed police on suspicion of plotting attacks in the UK – amid fears of a Remembrance Sunday plot.
Those arrested included a 19-year-old High Wycombe man who neighbours said had returned from a trip to Pakistan earlier this year and was described as having been recently radicalised.
It is understood there is no direct link to Syria or the terror group Isil but one line of police inquiry is likely to examine whether the men were planning a gun attack.
The men, aged 19 to 27, were held overnight at locations across west London and High Wycombe in the Thames Valley area.
Three other men, aged 19, 22 and 25, were held at addresses in Hounslow, west London, and High Wycombe, Bucks, on Thursday night.
The 19-year-old – who was named locally as Yousaf Syed and was held following a raid by 30 police officers on a house in Desborough Road, High Wycombe at around 7.30pm on Thursday – was described by neighbours as having become religious in recent months.
His home is understood to have been raided by police earlier this year after he returned home from a trip to Pakistan.
Syed moved to High Wycome from Harrow three years ago with his mother after her marriage collapsed. He attends a local college where he was said to be studying business management.
A neighbour, who did not want to be named, said: “There was a pre-emptive raid back in April on the same house. We don’t want trouble like this with Remembrance Sunday.”
Another resident said Syed had recently been “radicalised” and had confronted him over the “western hip-hop” music he was playing.
John Trantham, 25, who works as a carer and has lived next door to the property since February, said: “His mother said he has just found his faith. I have had a number of run ins with him. He kept wanting me to turn my music down or not play music at all, saying he didn’t approve of western hip hop. He has threatened me and I was having to complain to my landlord about it. I thought it was a domestic thing and I’m so shocked it is terror related. It’s really surprised everyone.”
The police also carried out a raid at an address in nearby Deeds Grove, High Wycombe - home to relatives of the 19-year-old - where a "substantial find" was made, according to one community leader.
Another High Wycombe man, 27-year-old Omar Hussain, a former Morrisons supermarket worker, travelled to Syria to join Islamic State extremists in January this year.
A third High Wycombe man, Shabazz Suleman, 18, who attended the town's Royal Grammar School, disappeared during study leave for his A-levels in May and is thought to have fled the country in order to fight alongside jihadis in the Islamist terror group.
The arrests came just three days before Remembrance Sunday, amid fears of a possible attack on servicemen and civilians gathering to pay tribute to those who fell during Britain’s armed conflicts.
Security has been stepped up in the run up to Sunday’s commemorative events.
All four men were taken to police stations in central London and remain in custody, while a number of residential addresses and vehicles, in Greenford, Hounslow, Brentford and Walthamstow, were searched.
The arrests and searches are part of an “ongoing investigation into Islamist related terrorism”, the Metropolitan Police said.
It is understood that the men were thought to have been plotting a possible gun attack rather a bombing.
Although there is no suspected link with the conflict in Syria, there have been fears that extremists in this country would try to copy the beheadings carried out by Islamic State.
The men were held on suspicion of being concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism, contrary to the Terrorism Act 2000.
The arrests come a few months after the national terror threat level in the UK was raised from substantial to severe, meaning a terrorist attack is “highly likely”. This assessment is separate from the evaluation concerning police officers.
The Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre raised the level against a backdrop of increasing concerns over hundreds of aspiring British jihadis travelling to Iraq and Syria to learn terrorist “tradecraft” and fight alongside terror groups such as Islamic State.
Fears heightened after IS posted a series of videos online showing the separate murders of US journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and two British aid workers, David Haines and most recently Salford aid worker Alan Henning.
Footage claiming to show Mr Henning’s murder appeared on the Internet in October, just days after the UK joined US-led air strikes against the terrorists in Iraq.
An apparent IS fighter with a British accent appeared unmasked in another film encouraging “brothers” in Western countries to “rise up” and commit acts of terror in their home countries.
IS, led by fanatic Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has taken over large swathes of Iraq and Syria and attracted thousands of foreign jihadists to its cause, including more than 500 Britons.