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Security alert false alarm at army camp follows RAF kidnap attempt

A security alert that sparked a lockdown at a British army camp was a false alarm, it has emerged, as police admitted tensions are running high following the attempted kidnap of an RAF serviceman and the Nice terror attack. Bulford Armyrats © military camp on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire was placed under restricted access after reports that three people had been spotted on a nearby ridge on Thursday with a long-barrelled weapon . But Wiltshire police said on Friday that the individuals concerned were located and the police force confirmed they were not involved in any suspicious activity.

The alarm was sounded hours after police in Norfolk launched a manhunt for two men described as Middle Eastern in appearance who allegedly tried to drag an RAF serviceman at knifepoint into a car outside RAF Marham, near Kings Lynn. It also came a week after 84 people were killed and 303 injured when a 19-tonne truck was deliberately driven by Islamic State-inspired Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel into crowds celebrating Bastille Day in Nice. Vince Logue, Wiltshire police south sector acting inspector, acknowledged recent events had put members of the public on edge.

With recent events, both in the UK and abroad, it is understandable that we are seeing an increase in calls from members of the public reporting suspicious behaviour, he said. It is only right that we fully investigate calls of this nature. Thankfully, this incident turned out to be non-suspicious.

The search in Norfolk for the two suspects aged between 20 and 30 continued on Friday after detectives said they could not rule out terrorism as a motive for the attack. Police have launched dedicated hotlines for anyone with information.

One of the alleged assailants leaped from a dark-coloured Ford Galaxy and tried to drag the unarmed serviceman towards the vehicle as he was going for a run near the barracks on Wednesday afternoon.

The serviceman fought back and knocked the attacker to the floor, at which point the second man allegedly climbed out of the car wielding a three-inch blade. As he went to help his companion, the victim ran away.

At a press conference in Wymondham, Norfolk, on Thursday, Det Supt Paul Durham said the victim who is married and in his late 20s believed the first assailant shouted but as he had been listening to music the victim was unable to confirm what was said. Durham added: What he reports is while he was running he becomes aware of the vehicle parked opposite him, but there was nothing about it that made him in any way suspicious of it, and it wasn t until he was almost alongside it he became aware of one of the occupants of the vehicle. Police could not rule out that there were more people in the car, Durham said.

The attacker placed his hand on the victim s shoulder and then on his wrist and started to pull him with a degree of force towards the vehicle, he said. Our victim resisted that, managed to break free, effectively fought free from that attack and rendered the first assailant well, he effectively knocked him on the floor.

Durham said it appeared to be a pre-planned attack, but it was too early to be certain. [The victim is] naturally very shaken by his ordeal, as you would expect. The base remained on high alert, with officers on patrol and some roads still closed, but an event for families to celebrate the base s centenary went ahead as planned on Thursday with a heightened civilian and RAF police presence. Assistant chief constable Nick Dean said on Thursday: The motivation of this incident remains unclear. We re unable at this time to discount terrorism, but I stress other lines of inquiry are equally as plausible.

RAF Marham is home to four Tornado squadrons that have played a key role in the bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria. From 2018, the base will also house the F-35 Lightning II jet.
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Police released descriptions of the suspects earlier on Thursday. The first man was between 20 and 30 years old, approximately 6ft tall, of athletic but stocky build, with dark hair which was long on top and [he] had a well-groomed beard. He was of Middle Eastern origin in appearance with a dark skin tone and wore dark casual clothing.

The second was between 20 and 30 years old, but younger than the first suspect and of a slimmer build. He was approximately 5ft 10, clean shaven with short dark hair. He was also of Middle Eastern origin in appearance and wore a white T-shirt and dark shorts.

Durham on Friday said early CCTV inquiries revealed that there were a number of people walking on nearby Squires Hill, near to a branch of Costcutters, around the times of the incident and has appealed for anyone with information to come forward.

References

  1. ^ bombing campaign in Iraq (www.theguardian.com)

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