London: Police said on Friday a suspected bomb had been found near a Wolverhampton mosque, making it the third explosive device targeting Muslims in the West Midlands in a month.
Traces of an explosion and debris consistent with a detonation were found close to Wolverhampton Central Mosque.
Counter-terrorism detectives were continuing to question two Ukrainian men arrested on Thursday in connection with the suspected attempted bombing of a mosque in Tipton last Friday and an attack on a Walsall mosque on June 21.
West Midlands counter-terrorism unit searched a software company where the two arrested men were believed to have been working on a university placement. They are believed to be engineering students.
Police evacuated streets near the Wolverhampton Central Mosque on Thursday night after receiving information about “a possible device activation”.
West Midlands police said specialist officers called in to search the area around the mosque on Thursday had found the “seat of an explosion” and debris on a nearby roundabout.
An area around the mosque was sealed off at 8pm as a military bomb disposal team was deployed.
West Midlands police said they were acting on information that an unspecified device had been “activated” on June 28. The arrest and searches of the two men, and their home and work addresses on Thursday afternoon, led police to information which triggered suspicions a device may have been placed near the Wolverhampton mosque some weeks before.
An officer had spotted one of the men in Small Heath, Birmingham. That led to the arrest of a second man and searches near the mosque and at a Birmingham software company where the two arrested men had been on work experience.
Clive Martell, chief executive of the software company Delcam, said: “The two men were on work placements with us, but were not employees of the business.
“They are studying at a foreign university and are engineering students.”
Martell told the Birmingham Mail that the men were studying in an eastern European country: “One of the men has been with us for four months and the other has been with us for two months.
“They were around halfway through the course and we understand that they met each other whilst on the placement.
“This was completely unexpected and we are doing everything we possibly can to assist the police with their investigations.”
Assistant Chief Constable Marcus Beale, who is in charge of the investigation, said: “Officers searching the area [around the Wolverhampton mosque] have found the seat of an explosion and debris on the island near the mosque.
“The investigation is being led by specialist officers and staff from our counter-terrorism unit who are being supported by a range of departments from across the force.
“We recognise the impact news of the latest find will have on the communities of Wolverhampton and further afield. We’re working hard to complete our enquiries so that the area can be returned to normality.”
“While the investigation is in its very early stages, early indications are that the explosion happened on Friday 28 June.”
Detectives linked the evacuation to information received as part of an investigation into two recent attacks near mosques elsewhere in the West Midlands and the Black Country.
The arrests were made shortly before 3pm in the Small Heath area of Birmingham, where roads were subsequently sealed off and searched by bomb disposal teams.
Last Friday, residents were evacuated after a blast near the Kanzul Iman Masjid (mosque) in Tipton left nails and debris scattered outside. Police believe the intention was to kill or maim after the attack in broad daylight. No one was injured but some minor damage to property was reported.
A small component part of the suspected nail bomb was found in a garden nearby and specialist army disposal officers were called to the scene to carry out a controlled explosion.
It came after more than 100 residents were evacuated from their homes in the Caldmore area of Walsall last month after an explosion near the Aisha Mosque and Islamic Centre. No one was hurt in the blast, which caused minimal damage to a wall near the mosque on June 21.
On Saturday, police will deploy 1,000 officers to deal with an English Defence League protest and a counter-protest by anti-fascists in Birmingham.
Police will be monitoring community tension indicators for signs of any intelligence suggesting disorder.