ARMED police opened fire during an operation to arrest members of the controversial far-right English Defence League, who were feared to be masterminding an attack at a Bournemouth mosque.
Marksmen shot the tyres out on a van belonging to John Broomfield, who describes himself as Dorset EDL head, as he drove alone through Corfe Castle. He and six others were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to cause an explosion at a Bournemouth mosque. All seven, including at least six EDL members, have since been released without charge.
Armed officers pounced from an unmarked car close to the Norden roundabout as 27-year-old Mr Broomfield, from Swanage, drove home from work around 5pm. They used special rapid tyre deflation rounds, fired from a shotgun, to disable his vehicle. Officers, including specialised forensic experts, then swooped on his Bell Street home, removing clothes, computer equipment, mobile phones and passports.
The suspects were held at Poole police station and a police station in Southampton, following last Thursday’s arrests.
The English Defence League is a contentious group that has been leading “anti-Muslim extremism” demonstrations around England since 2009. Thousands of people have attended its protests – many of which have involved racist and Islamophobic chanting. However, organisers insist it is not a racist organisation.
A number of violent clashes have also taken place at EDL demonstrations since the group first emerged in Luton last year.
In a statement to the Daily Echo, Mr Broomfield said: “While travelling home from work I was stopped and arrested by armed police. I was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to cause an explosion at a Bournemouth mosque. Five other members of the EDL were also arrested and held for 24 hours for questioning while searches of their homes took place. Then all of us were released without charge. There has been no conspiracy. There has never been any conspiracy. The EDL is not a terrorist organisation.”
A spokesman for Dorset Police said: “Dorset Police can confirm that as part of an investigation surrounding threats to a Bournemouth mosque a total of seven people were arrested for conspiracy to cause an explosion. Following an investigation police can now confirm these people have been released without charge. We can also confirm that one of the people arrested was detained safely by armed officers in the Corfe Castle area.
“We’ve been working very closely with the Muslim community since last Thursday and our local safer neighbourhood teams have been providing advice and reassurance throughout. At this stage there is no indication whatsoever that any of the mosques in Dorset are under threat of attack.”