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SPECIAL Branch officers have been called in to investigate a suspected terrorist plot in Birmingham.

Part of the city was brought to a standstill on Friday morning after a "suspicious" 20ft deep hole was discovered near a main gas pipeline in Small Heath.

Last night, a source told the Mercury: "Special Branch officers have been informed about the find and will be looking at the situation closely over the weekend.

"The thinking is that this kind of thing is very unlikely to happen by accident but they are keeping an open mind about it."

The hole was found by an employee of nearby Ackers Trust ski centre on Thursday afternoon.

Two ladders were reportedly inside.

The find triggered an overnight investigation by West Midlands Police, who later closed off Small Heath Highway - a main artery into the city - as well as Small Heath Industrial Estate.

The move caused rush hour chaos, as motorists were left trapped in long queues while scores of staff were unable to get to work at local businesses.

One Ackers Trust worker said: "One of our employees discovered the hole but had no idea what it was, so called the police. Before we knew it, the whole place was sealed off.

The incident is just the latest terrorist alert in Birmingham this year. In January, nine men were arrested in the city as part of a major anti-terrorism investigation reportedly involving an alleged plot to kidnap a soldier.

Last night, the area under investigation was still cordoned.

West Midlands Police say the investigation will not affect fans travelling to today's derby clash between Birmingham City and Aston Villa at St Andrews.

A spokeswoman said: "The incident is being treated as suspicious but might turn out to be entirely innocent. Anything else is purely speculation."
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Nov 11, 2007
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