Counter terrorism police are investigating the theft of powerful landmines from a goods train. Ten packages owned by the Ministry of Defence were snatched from the train when it stopped in Warrington on its way from Cumbria to Oxfordshire. The freight train had stopped to observe a red light.
Seven of the packages were later found abandoned near the railway line close to Folley Lane in Warrington. The remaining three, which contain four plastic cases each, are still missing. It is understood each 4ft-long case is an anti-tank mine used by the Army in Afghanistan.
Police have stressed the missing munitions are stable ‘in their normal condition’. It is believed other components are required to blow up the explosives. Detectives are treating the theft as ‘opportunistic’ rather than the work of terrorists.
Today (Saturday) the North-West Counter Terrorism Unit appealed for information about the missing items, two days after the theft was first discovered. Officials spotted the explosives were missing when the freight train arrived in Didcot, Oxfordshire on Thursday morning. The munitions were on the train when it left Longtown in Cumbria at around 11.30am on Wednesday.
An investigation into the theft is being led by the North West Counter Terrorism Unit and also includes the Metropolitan Police, British Transport Police and the MoD.
Assistant Chief Constable Terry Sweeney said: “A number of enquiries are now being made by police officers into this theft, and our main priority is to safely recover the missing items. “At this stage there is nothing to suggest the theft is terrorist-related, but due to the potential complexity of the investigation, our enquiries are being led by counter terrorism officers. “We would like to appeal to any members of the public who may know the whereabouts of these items, or any persons involved in the theft of these items to contact the police immediately. “I want to make it clear that, in their normal condition, these munitions are stable and do not pose a risk to the public. “However, the materials could be hazardous if they were to be tampered with and we therefore ask that anyone who sees them or knows where they are to call the police as soon as possible.” Anyone with information is asked to call police on 0161 856 1027 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Source: Manchester Evening News