Warning: This post was published more than 11 years ago.
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A very strange story, this one. The centre of Birmingham – almost 20,000 people – evacuated for a night due to a ‘real and very credible threat’. So what was this threat? I can tell you some things it would appear it wasn’t…
It would appear not to be a bomb threat. I’m lead to that conclusion from the fact that the police said the threat ‘was specific about the time and also the locations’, so there would be no need to evacuate the whole city centre when the particular locations could just be checked out. Also, the suspicious packages found were said to be ‘incidental’ to the greater alert. The only other bomb theory would be the idea of a suicide bomber – but that doesn’t seem credible when the police evacuated a whole load of people to a confined space at Aston University. So this was no bomb threat.
What other kind of threat could there possibly be that would necessitate this unprecedented level of evacuation? My thoughts turned to some kind of plane-crashing nineleven style attack, but that again seems unlikely, as the most simple thing to do in that situation would be to enact an air exclusion zone all the way around the Birmingham area, and attack anything that breaks that exclusion zone before it gets too close to the city. That’d be a fairly awkward thing to do, but a lot less awkward than evacuating large parts of a city, particularly when the exclusion wouldn’t have to be enacted for too long a time given that the threat was specific about time.
Clearly, the information we’ve been given shows that this attack could not have been relating to anything stationary, such as a bomb, nor any easily moveable threat like a suicide bomber or car bomb. It must be something coming in from outside – since otherwise it would be easy to just clear the specific locations – whose course cannot be changed – since otherwise they could simply attack Aston – and something that would could widespread distruction – otherwise there would be no need to evacuate so large an area.
The only thing my limited imagination can come up with is that this could be some kind of electrical threat. If intelligence on such a threat had already been received over some time, then this would explain why it was the conclusion initially jumped to in the tube bombings. It could also cause widespread destruction – a huge power surge could blow up large parts of a city. The power supplies to specific parts of the city could be affected at specific times. But if someone can cause a credible threat to the city centre using this method, then why not to Aston? It would appear that this is where my theory falls down.
So what could the threat possibly have been? Was the threat actually carried out, and damage simply prevented by the lack of people? Or was it prevented? And why won’t the police tell us anything about the threat or the operation? I suspect there’s something going on here, and perhaps it isn’t over yet…