A significant arms cache, including a sniper rifle, a silencer and tracer rounds linked to the banned terrorist group al-Muhajiroun have been found in Coventry, the Observer can reveal.
Officers from the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit and MI5 are investigating the weapons haul, which also includes a shotgun and 200 rounds of ammunition, following raids at several addresses in the city.
A statement from West Midlands Police, which assists the regional counter-terrorism unit, said: “Firearms and ammunition were recovered during the raids and a police investigation is ongoing.” Four men have been arrested, one of whom has links to the al-Muhajiroun network, according to sources. The group, active in the UK since the mid-1980s, disappeared after the July 2005 attacks on London, but maintained a presence under various different names. It was eventually banned in 2009 under legislation outlawing “glorification” of terrorism.
Supporters of al-Muhajiroun, whose traditional centres of organisation are the East End of London and Luton, have carried out atrocities including the 2017 London Bridge attack, the July 2005 bombings and the murder of Lee Rigby in 2013, with a number fighting for Islamic State and al-Qaida abroad.
Recent reports suggest the group is regenerating, buoyed by the release of convicted terrorists from prison. The former head of national counter-terror policing, Neil Basu, said the security services were working to disrupt terrorist activity by al-Muhajiroun.
Of the four men arrested in Coventry on suspicion of firearms offences, a 51-year-old and a 37-year-old remain on bail. Counter-terrorism officers raided two addresses in the city on 3 July and two more on 15 July.
A source said one of the arrested men had links with the al-Muhajiroun network before leaving the group and had reappeared on the security services’ radar after acquiring firearms.
The source said: “The ones to worry about are those who join the group and leave. They then fall into two categories: either going back into normal life and thinking those guys were a bunch of jokers; or getting really serious – and they are the ones to follow.
“The main guy [in this case] was in the purview of ALM and then jetted out like a comet and became a lot more serious than ALM could ever dream of being.”
Last year al-Muhajiroun’s British-born leader, Anjem Choudary, was released from prison after being convicted for his activities to support Isis. Choudary has no connection to the arms cache uncovered in Coventry and has always denied allegations that he has either incited or glorified acts of terrorism.
A number of ALM members travelled to Syria and Iraq to join Islamic State, including Siddhartha Dhar, a former bouncy-castle salesman from London, who was on bail for terrorism offences when he travelled to the Middle East to join the terror group.
After being banned in 2009, the group resurfaced under various different banners with one, Islam4UK, creating headlines after protesting in Luton against British soldiers returning from Iraq, a demonstration that helped to form the far-right English Defence League.
The West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit is one of 11 regional counter-terrorism units that form the National Counter Terrorism Policing Network that bring together intelligence, operations and investigative capabilities around the UK to prevent and prosecute terrorist activities. The finding of military-grade tracer rounds is particularly unusual in the UK.