Shipment of powerful anti-tank mines stolen from goods train
Powerful anti-tank mines used by British troops in Afghanistan are stolen from goods train
By Arthur Martin
PUBLISHED: 02:11, 27 October 2012 | UPDATED: 02:13, 27 October 2012
A shipment of powerful anti-tank mines have been stolen from a goods train.
Thieves are thought to have snatched the mines, used by British troops in Afghanistan, when the train was forced to stop because of a body on the track.
The munitions were discovered missing when the train pulled into a station 90 miles further down the line.
Specialist counter-terrorism officers from the Metropolitan Police, supported by the British Transport Police and the Ministry of Defence, have launched a hunt for the missing mines.
The rectangular bar mines contain explosives but need extra components to make them operational, said Whitehall sources.
It is understood the heist on Thursday was the work of ‘opportunists’ who broke into one of the stationary wagons unaware of the sensitive cargo, rather than a targeted raid.
But investigators are concerned that the mines, which the British Army use to blow up bridges and buildings in Helmand, could fall into the wrong hands.
The L9 Bar Mines contain explosives but need extra components to make them operational, said Whitehall sources.
It is understood Thursday’s heist was the work of ‘opportunists’ who broke into one of the stationary wagons unaware of the sensitive cargo, rather than a targeted raid.
A Scotland Yard spokesman said: ‘At this stage there is nothing to suggest that the theft is terrorist-related. However due to the potential complexity of the investigation and specialist skills of officers, inquiries are being led by counter-terrorism officers.’
A military source told the Mail: ‘If extremists or criminal gangs got their clutches on the munitions and managed to get someone to prime and charge them, which is difficult but not impossible, there is the potential for carnage.’
The theft took place as the mines were being transported from Defence Munitions Longtown, in Cumbria, to Marchwood Military Port near Southampton, which is operated by 17 Port and Maritime Regiment, Royal Logistic Corps.
The train is understood to have been held up for about an hour near Birmingham because of a fatality further down the line at Kidlington, Oxfordshire. The munitions were discovered missing when the train arrived in Didcot, Oxfordshire, at 7.30am.
A source said: ‘A railway worker noticed the sliding door of the wagon was open and shortly afterwards a number of police with a sniffer dog turned up and the wagon was placed in a secured shed.
‘It’s terrifying that this could happen. Who knows who could get their hands on the explosives.’
The train is operated by a private company on behalf of the MoD.
The 24lb mines contain 19lb of explosives and were first used during the 1991 Gulf War. The Army now uses them as demolition charges.
A Scotland Yard spokesman said: ‘Police are investigating the theft of munitions from a freight train between Cumbria and Oxfordshire.
‘British Transport Police were alerted shortly after 7.30am yesterday (Thursday, 25 October) morning when
‘The MoD-owned munitions were on the train when it left Longtown in Cumbria at approximately 11.30am on Wednesday.
‘Officers are checking CCTV as part of their inquiries. ‘
The Met has made no arrests so far.
The British Army has since been using bar mines simply as demolition charges, for instance to blow holes in tough compound walls in Afghanistan and Iraq.
An MoD spokesman: ‘The Police are investigating an incident involving a train that was carrying MoD owned armaments. No more information is available while the investigation is ongoing.’