The Home Secretary, Theresa May, has announced today that an 'imminent terrorist threat' has been thwarted after MI5, working in partnership with German security services, apprehended five members of a suspected terrorist cell in Frankfurt earlier this month.
The five men, all British citizens aged between 23 and 39, are currently being held under the Prevention of Terrorism act, and are alleged to have been planning to board flights to British airports carrying mobile phones that they intended to leave on throughout the journey.
As well as making the arrests, officers from MI5 and the BfV, (Germany's Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution) seized several mobile phone handsets from the rented office the men had been using for the past 3 weeks.
The phones, Nokia 2330 models, had been purchased separately from Carphone warehouse outlets in Kingston-upon-Thames, Twickenham and Surbiton for £14.95 each (plus a £10 pound initial top-up), and, chillingly, were not thought to have a flight-safe mode.
Explaining the threat the men are alleged to have posed, aviation expert, Simon Craig, said, 'Any electronic equipment a passenger leaves on during take-off and landing can interfere with the aircraft's sensitive navigation and communication systems, but a mobile phone actually sends and receives invisible so-called 'electromagnetic waves', making it hundreds of times more disruptive than, say, a calculator. I shudder to think what might have happened to these planes if the [alleged terrorists] had been allowed to board them.'
MI5 Director-General, Jonathan Evans, emphasised the extreme threat this group and 'countless others like them' pose to the safety of British citizens every day, and praised the vital work of his staff in preventing them carrying out their plans.
'None of us wants to imagine the possible consequences, but what if they had all started texting as the plane was coming into Heathrow? And the pilot, confused and disoriented, had to crash into a heavily populated area? I'm just thinking out loud here, but what if the plane had been forced to crash into the new stand at Twickenham Stadium? Say, during the Varsity Match?
'Heaven forbid, and all that, but I mean, I'd hate to be the one who had to tell the public that we had it in our power to stop this kind of carnage, but for whatever reason didn't.'
George Osborne announces the Coalition's raft of public spending cuts on Wednesday.