Flaming Car Drives Into Glasgow Airport

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A Jeep Cherokee trailing a cascade of flames rammed into Scotland's largest airport yesterday, shattering glass doors and stopping within meters of where holidaymakers were lined up at check-in counters. Two people were arrested - one of them on fire - and there were no reports of injuries.

The apparent terrorist attack comes a day after police foiled a car bomb plot in central London, discovering explosives packed into a Mercedes outside a nightclub near Piccadilly Circus and another car parked nearby.

The chaos over the past two days has raised fears that the type of car bomb attacks that have become commonplace in Iraq may now become a fixture of European life. Late yesterday, Britain raised its security alert level to critical - the highest possible level indicating terror attacks may be imminent.

"This is in response to the events of the last 48 hours. Critical is the highest level of threat, and the threat level will be closely reviewed on a regular basis. Appropriate security measures have been put in place," Home Secretary Jaqui Smith said in a statement.

The new terror threat presents Prime Minister Gordon Brown with an enormous challenge just three days after taking office, and comes at a time of already heightened vigilance one week before the anniversary of the July 7 London transit attacks.

The green Jeep barreled toward Glasgow's main airport terminal at full speed shortly after 3 P.M., hitting security barriers before crashing into the glass doors and exploding, witnesses said.

Police wrestled the driver and a passenger, both described by witnesses as South Asian, to the ground, arresting them and taking one to the hospital. Witnesses said one of the men was engulfed in flames and spoke gibberish as an official doused him with a fire extinguisher.

The previous round of terrorist activity in Britain, in July 2005, was largely carried out by local Muslims, raising ethnic tensions in Britain.

"The car came speeding past," said witness Scott Leeson. "Then the driver swerved the car around so he could ram straight in to the door. He must have been trying to smash straight through."

Passengers fled running and screaming from the busy terminal, witness Margaret Hughes told the British Broadcasting Corp. "There was black smoke gushing out where the car had obviously been driven into the airport," she said.

The airport - Scotland's largest - was evacuated and all flights suspended. Flames and black smoke could be seen rising from the jeep outside the main entrance. It did not appear there were any injuries aside from the suspect who had been set afire.

The apparent attack left passengers shaken and stranded on the first day of summer vacation for Glasgow schools. At the time of the crash, the airport was bustling with families heading out on holiday.

Meanwhile in London, police were gathering CCTV evidence, as forensics experts searched for clues into the foiled bombings. The two Mercedes cars had been loaded with gasoline, gas canisters and nails in one of the capital's busiest areas on a night when Londoners like to go out and party. Police would not comment on a U.S. news report that they had a crystal clear picture of one suspect from CCTV footage.

The vehicles were found abandoned in the early hours of Friday in what police believe was an attempt to kill scores or even hundreds of people. Detectives said they were keeping an open mind about who the bombers were, but terrorism experts said the signs pointed to a cell linked to or inspired by al-Qaida.

One former top British security official said she had no doubt the London and Glasgow incidents were connected.

"One has to conclude ... these are linked," Dame Pauline Neville-Jones, former head of Britain's joint intelligence committee, told Sky News television. This is a very young government, and we may yet see further attacks. ... We are seeing a pattern of attack in the early days of a new government.

Firefighters tackled flames that had consumed the Jeep - reduced to a charred hulk - and spread to the terminal building. Police did not say whether the SUV that struck the airport was carrying explosives, but one witness reported seeing a gas canister in the vehicle.

Witness Lynsey McBean said one of the men took out a plastic gasoline canister and poured a liquid under the car. "He then set light to it," said Bean, 26. She said the Jeep struck the front door of the airport but got jammed.

Leeson said bollards - security posts outside the entrance - stopped the driver from barreling into the bustling terminal at Glasgow's airport.



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