GLASGOW, Scotland — A flaming Jeep Cherokee rammed into Glasgow Airport yesterday, shattering glass doors just yards from passengers lined up at the check-in counters. Police said the attack could be linked to two car bombs found in London the day before.
Britain raised its terror alert to “critical” — the highest possible level — and the Bush administration announced plans to increase security at airports and on mass transit. President Bush is keeping informed of the situation, the White House said.
One of the men in the car was in critical condition with severe burns at a hospital, while the other was in police custody, said Scottish Police Chief Constable Willie Rae. He said a “suspect device” was found on the suspect at the hospital, and it was taken to a safe location, where it was being investigated.
Chief Constable Rae would not say whether the device was a suicide belt. British security officials said evidence suggests the Glasgow attack was an attempted suicide mission.
Police later arrested two more suspects in the London and Glasgow plots in Cheshire county in northern England, Scotland Yard said early this morning.
“I can confirm that we believe the incident at Glasgow Airport is linked to the events in London [Friday],” Chief Constable Rae said. “There are clearly similarities, and we can confirm that this is being treated as a terrorist incident.”
Police foiled the plot Friday after two cars were found in central London packed with explosives — one outside a nightclub near Piccadilly Circus and another parked nearby.
A British government security official said the methods used in the airport attack and Friday’s thwarted plots were similar, with all three vehicles carrying large quantities of flammable liquid.
The new terror threat presents Prime Minister Gordon Brown, a Scot who took office Wednesday, with an enormous challenge and occurs at a time of already heightened vigilance one week before the anniversary of the July 7 London transit attacks, which killed 52 persons.
“I know that the British people will stand together, united, resolute and strong,” Mr. Brown said yesterday in a televised statement.
The green Jeep barreled toward Glasgow’s main airport terminal shortly after 3 p.m., hitting security barriers before crashing into the glass doors, witnesses said.
Police subdued the driver and a passenger, both described by witnesses as South Asian — a term referring to people from Pakistan, Afghanistan and other countries in the region — and arrested them and took one to the hospital. Witnesses said one of the men was engulfed in flames and spoke “gibberish” as an official used a fire extinguisher to douse the fire.
Chief Constable Rae said a bystander was taken to the hospital with a leg injury.
“The car came speeding past,” said Scott Leeson, a witness. “Then the driver swerved the car around so he could ram straight into the door. He must have been trying to smash straight through.”
Passengers fled running and screaming from the busy terminal, 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.