The security services believe they have stopped an Islamist suicide bomb plot to assassinate the Prime Minister.
Two Muslim men are suspected of conspiring to attack Downing Street armed with an improvised bomb, suicide vest and knives.
Investigators suspect the pair wanted to detonate a bomb disguised as a bag. They would then attempt to kill Theresa May armed with a suicide vest, pepper spray and knife in the aftermath.
Naa’imur Zakariyah Rahman, 20, and Mohammed Aqib Imran, 21, will appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday charged with planning terror attacks.
Rahman, 20, from north London, is accused of planning to bomb Downing Street’s security gates and then attack the Prime Minister in the ensuing chaos.
The alleged conspiracy was foiled after a joint operation by Scotland Yard, West Midlands Police and MI5. Security chiefs stepped in amid fears the men were preparing to launch an attack, arresting them at gunpoint.
However, although they appear to have been inspired by Islamic State it does not appear they were able to obtain or build any explosives.
The smashed plot highlights the extreme threat still faced by the UK in a year blighted by terrorist atrocities which claimed 36 lives.
Counter-terrorist chiefs said it was the ninth foiled plot since March as hundreds of terrorist suspects remain under investigation.
The security service and police have thwarted 22 terrorist plots in the past four years and there are more than 500 live investigations ongoing. Police chiefs are struggling to handle more than 3,000 subjects of interest, along with a growing pool of more than 20,000 individuals identified during terrorist inquiries.
The festive season has seen some events, particularly Christmas markets and high-profile events, taking extreme precautions. Police fear a lone-wolf extremist could mount a ‘copycat’ attack similar to that on Berlin’s Breitscheidplatz Christmas market last year.
The head of MI5, Andrew Parker, yesterday briefed Cabinet ministers on the unprecedented terrorist threat facing the country.
Mr Parker has said the threat facing the UK was at the ‘highest tempo’ seen in his 34-year career.
(A week after the Westminster Bridge attack in March, police arrested Ummariyat Mirza, 21, who pleaded guilty to researching and plotting a terrorist attack using a hunting knife)
The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: ‘Mr Parker said that nine terrorist attacks had been prevented in the past year. There have been five attacks that got through, four of which are related to Islamist terrorism.’ Mrs May thanked Mr Parker and MI5 for their ‘tireless work’ tackling terrorism.
Some of the foiled terror attacks have never been made public for security reasons, although the majority have.
A week after the Westminster Bridge attack in March, police arrested Ummariyat Mirza, 21, who pleaded guilty to researching and plotting a terrorist attack using a hunting knife.
Days later, MI5 and police foiled an attack when they arrested a man found carrying a ‘bag of knives’ in Whitehall.
Khalid Mohammed Omar Ali, 27, was charged with an offence that involved ‘purchasing knives and travelling to London’. He denies the charge and is awaiting trial.
Also in April, police smashed an alleged female terror cell, believed to be Britain’s first all-female terrorist hit squad. Rizlaine Boular, 21, and her mother Mina Dich, 43, are alleged to have plotted an atrocity with Khawla Barghouthi, 20, in coded chats about ‘cakes’.
The trio are facing trial along with a 17-year-old girl accused of plotting a separate terrorist attack on a British museum after she married an IS fighter on Skype.
In May, Umar Ahmed Haque, Muhammad Abid and Abuthaher Mamun, from east London, were arrested as part of an investigation by MI5 and the police. Haque and Mamun allegedly planned to use a vehicle in a terror attack.
Haque was also accused of having a list of possible targets across the capital.
Police reportedly found a large knife in his car.
In June, a teenager from south Wales was arrested on the day of a Justin Bieber concert and subsequently found guilty of plotting a terror attack in Cardiff.
The boy, from Rhondda Cynon Taf, was found guilty of five terror-related charges at Birmingham Crown Court. It was said he had planned an IS-inspired attack at the pop concert, just a month after the Manchester Arena bombing.
In August, a man armed with a 4ft sword was arrested outside Buckingham Palace as he repeatedly shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’.