The London Metropolitan Police released the following report:
Five arrested under Terrorism Act
At approximately 5.45am today, 17 September 2010, five men were arrested by officers from the MPS Counter Terrorism Command on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.
The men, aged 26, 27, 36, 40, and 50, were arrested under the Terrorism Act 2000 at business premises in central London.
The men have been taken to a central London police station where they will be interviewed by detectives.
Searches are being carried out under the Terrorism Act 2000 at: a business premises in central London and residential premises in north and east London. Initial searches have not uncovered any hazardous items.
Today’s arrests were made after police received information. Following initial inquiries by detectives a decision was made to arrest the five men.
Following today’s arrests the policing arrangements for the Papal visit were reviewed and we are satisfied that our current policing plan remains appropriate. The itinerary has not changed. There is no change to the UK threat level.
As you can see, there’s no mention of nationality, religion, or any sort of motive. So when I was reading this, I tried to imagine what might be going on. After all, there are three groups of people in the UK who hate the pope’s guts: radical Protestants of the Ian Paisley type, radical atheists, and radical Muslims. Of these two, I suspect we can safely discount the first group, although given the violence in Northern Ireland in recent year, it’s a harrowing reminder that interdenominational violence in the name of Christendom is a thing of the recent past.
Well, now it’s been revealed that all five men are Algerian street-cleaners. There’s still no names, and no explicit mention of motive, but the implication seems to be that the men were going to do this in the name of Islam. That said, the article above quotes quite a few shocking examples of British anti-Catholicism from its liberal quarters, folks who wouldn’t have been too torn up over the unthinkable happening to the pope.
All of this has served as a reminder that we’re a pilgrim Church: we’re called to be in the world, but not of the world. Matthew 5:19-12 reminds us,
“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Pray for the Pope!
EDIT: Turns out there were six men, not five, they weren’t all Algerian (although they were all North African), and they are now being described as “disguised as street cleaners,” rather than actual street cleaners. That’s a lot of corrections, and I won’t be surprised if some of the latest information needs to be modified as well.