Race to find British Bomb factory

A plot to blow up several department stores filled with Easter shoppers in Manchester has led to the resignation of a top counterterrorism official and a desperate search for the bomb factory:

A desperate search was under way last night for the terrorist bomb factory from which a suspected al-Qaeda cell planned to launch a devastating attack in Manchester.

Hours after Britain's most senior counter-terrorism officer resigned in disgrace, police operations were concentrating on a rundown block of flats east of Liverpool city centre.

The block was cordoned off and large quantities of material were seized for examination. People were evacuated from the area around the flats, which had been rented out by a private landlord to foreign students.

A dozen men are being questioned after raids that had to be rushed forward after Assistant Commissioner Bob Quick, the country's most senior anti-terrorism officer, inadvertently disclosed details of the police plans.

Mr Quick resigned as head of Special Operations at Scotland Yard yesterday morning, admitting that his bungle "could have compromised a major counter-terrorism operation".

His resignation created a sense of crisis in Scotland Yard, where commanders are battling to contain the fallout from the death of Ian Tomlinson during the G20 protests last week.

Ten of the 12 men arrested on Wednesday were Pakistani nationals who entered Britain on student visas.

All were from the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan, the heartland of al-Qaeda and mujahidin activity. They appear to have exploited a visa regime described by a minister last week as "the major loophole in Britain's border controls".

Of course, our own Visa program is hardly much better although there has been more attention paid in the last few years to students from countries that sponsor terrorsts or terrorism. More Visas are being rejected than before but that's no guarantee.

Apparently, the Scotland Yard counterterrorism chief publicized the raid while his men were still searching for the place where the bombs were made. It was pretty dumb because the terrorists have now fled with God knows how many bombs. The plot may still be on but with the authorities wise to it, it isn't likely to succeed.

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