Rigged Vehicle Rams Terminal At U.K. Airport

By Mary Jordan and Craig Whitlock
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, July 1, 2007

LONDON, June 30 -- Two men rammed a jeep into the entrance of the main terminal at Glasgow Airport on Saturday, sending a burst of flames into the air and terrifying bystanders. Authorities said the attack was linked to two attempted car bombings Friday in London and raised the national alert to "critical," the highest level, which means they believe another attack is imminent.

In response, U.S. authorities announced they were increasing security at airports in the Washington area and elsewhere, but left the national threat level unchanged.

The driver of the jeep, who was engulfed in flames, and his passenger were arrested. Police said they found a "suspect device" on the driver after the attack, when he was taken to a hospital to be treated for severe burns.

Though there were reports of cylinders of propane gas inside the jeep and a succession of other explosions, no bystanders were seriously injured. Concrete security posts prevented the car from fully entering the terminal.

In London, a somber-looking Gordon Brown, who took over as prime minister from Tony Blair on Wednesday, urged Britons to be "vigilant" and "support the police."

"I know the British people will stand together, united, resolute and strong," Brown said in a brief address Saturday night.

Authorities said they were bracing for more attacks from what they believe are homegrown terrorists using readily available materials such as propane gas to kill innocent people and unnerve the British government. "We have not seen the end of this," a senior government official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

The incident shut Scotland's busiest airport, stranding thousands of travelers, including many children enjoying the first day of summer vacation from school.

Stephen Clarkson, a passenger who was in the terminal, told reporters that he knocked one of the two men from the jeep to the ground. Clarkson and other witnesses said both men appeared to be of South Asian descent.

"He was on fire, the jeep was on fire as well," Clarkson said. "He started fighting with police. I managed to knock him to the ground, and four police officers got on top of him."

On Friday, London police discovered and disabled "viable explosive devices" in two Mercedes sedans packed with gasoline and nails. Police continued to search for the drivers of those cars, aided by forensic evidence and images taken from the omnipresent closed-circuit televisions in downtown London.

Police reported that the cars, which were parked near Piccadilly Circus, were stuffed with gas cylinders -- including propane tanks -- and containers filled with about 15 gallons of gasoline. One of the cars was in front of a crowded nightclub with hundreds of people inside.


CONTINUED     1           >

© 2007 The Washington Post Company