Gasoline tankers and chemical trucks entering London are being stopped at roadblocks to check for bombs, police revealed Wednesday, but officers said the operation is not in response to any indication of a specific plot.
Motorcycle spotters monitor large vehicles bound for the British capital and random checkpoints are set up to check any suspicious loads, the officials said.
The checks, which began earlier this year, are part of an operation to guard against terrorists using trucks to carry huge bombs into London, Scotland Yard said.
Officers have stepped up security in London — and claim to have foiled a string of terrorist plots — since four suicide bombers killed 52 commuters on three subway trains and a bus July 7, 2005.
London was the site of a failed repeat transit attack two weeks later, and police and intelligence agents say they have prevented a number of other planned attacks — including an alleged plan to down trans-Atlantic airliners last summer.
During the London trial of confessed al-Qaida operative Dhiren Barot, who was jailed last year for a minimum of 40 years, prosecutors said the British citizen plotted to ram prominent London landmarks with gasoline tankers packed with explosives.
Barot also was alleged to have studied targets in New Jersey, including the Prudential Building in Newark, writing in a memo that ramming trucks “straight through the glass front entrance into the lobby area” would be an effective bombing technique.
The New York Police Department used his case in a briefing to private security officials from Wall Street firms last fall, warning of the threat from tanker bombs.
Random checkpoints set up
British police said the truck checks were not started in response to specific information about any plot against the United Kingdom, but confirmed that random checkpoints are being set up on major roads into London.
Officials said concerns about such attacks followed the use of truck bombs in Iraq. In July 2005, the Iraqi government said a stolen fuel tanker was used in a suicide attack that killed more than 90 people in Musayyib, 40 miles south of Baghdad.
The checkpoints are part of “day-to-day business to disrupt, deter and prevent terrorism and to help create a hostile and uncertain environment for terrorists to operate in,” Scotland Yard said in a statement.
No explosives were reported found during the checks, but police said two people had been arrested for driving while driving without a license.