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Written by Student Rights on 13 June 2014 at 6am

Terrorism investigation in Newcastle shows importance of vigilance (Update: Student imprisoned)

UPDATE II: Vladimir Aust, an 18 year old Russian student, was sentenced to two years in prison on 17 October 2014 after pleading guilty to manufacturing an explosive substance. Aust had created HMTD, described by the judge as the "explosive of choice" for terrorists and that Aust was "dangerous, but acting alone". 

UPDATE: One of the students arrested is now reported to have been charged with the manufacture of an explosive substance, and will appear before magistrates on 17 June.

Police are today using extra time granted yesterday to question two students from Newcastle University arrested in connection with the discovery of suspicious materials on Tuesday.

The investigation is being led by the Counter Terrorism Unit at Northumbria Police, and in association with the North East Counter Terrorism Unit, with the arrests made under the Terrorism Act and the Explosives Act.

A police statement highlights how initial concern over erratic behaviour revealed more worrying material:

Northumbria Police were contacted by staff from Newcastle University outlining concern in relation [to]a student.

This concern was in relation to a change in the behaviour of the student and the belief he was carrying a knife.

A University Neighbourhood Police officer attended and met with staff and as a result of that meeting the officer and staff attended a bedroom in the halls of residence.

A number of items were seen in the bedroom which gave cause for concern and we implemented our well established response plans which included an evacuation of the building and implementation of safety cordons.

In line with nationally agreed protocols Counter Terrorism Officers attended the scene and as a result of their initial assessment a military Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit attended the scene.

Following a detailed assessment the items were identified as being explosives, they were removed by the military and a controlled explosion carried out at Exhibition Park”.

Believed to be of two Russian students, these arrests have worrying similarities to the case of Pavlo Lapshyn, jailed for life in October 2013 for the murder of 82 year old Mohammed Saleem and explosions targeting mosques.

A Ukranian student working in the UK, Laphsyn is reported to have claimed that he “hated non-whites” and had posed with the hunting knife used to kill Saleem on a white supremacist website.

He is also believed to have been planning further bomb attacks on mosques, with material required to make up to three further devices discovered in his apartment.

While it is still to be seen if these arrests are related to a similar brand of far-right extremism, if this is the case it will highlight the importance of vigilance for extremist behaviour from university staff.

It also demonstrates that close relationships between universities and local neighbourhood and counter-terrorism police are vital, something undermined by the NUS ‘Cops off Campus’ campaign.