ISLAMIC terrorists disguised as street cleaners allegedly hatched an audacious plot to blow up the Pope.
The threatened attack was foiled at the 11th hour after police raided a cleaning depot in London as the suspects prepared to start their shift yesterday.
Last night six men – all believed to be North Africans aged between 26 and 50 – were being questioned by detectives.
Five suspects were detained at the cleaning depot and the sixth was held at his home yesterday afternoon.
Searches were being carried out at 10 addresses across the capital and police seized computers, mobile phones and other items.
Pope Benedict XVI was said to have remained “totally calm” when he was informed about the threat yesterday morning.
A £1.5million ring of steel has been put in place for the first official Papal visit to Britain and security procedures were immediately reviewed but the Pontiff’s schedule continued as planned.
It is feared plotters with links to Al Qaeda planned “a double blow to the infidel” by assassinating the head of the Roman Catholic church and slaughtering hundreds of pilgrims and well-wishers.
The suspected plot was smashed after Scotland Yard officers swooped on the depot in Marylebone, central London, at 5.45am after a tip-off just hours earlier.
A security source said last night: “We had to act and arrest them. We had reasonable grounds to suspect they would carry out an attack.
Unfortunately, it was almost entirely predictable that something like this would turn up during the Pope's visit. It is also not unlike a report from a few weeks ago in which jihadists posing as rail workers were to be pre-positioned to wreak havoc during the 2012 Olympics. What remains to be seen, of course, is any affiliation these five may have with larger jihadist groups -- in this case, particularly Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.