Thursday, August 10 FIVE homes in Walthamstow believed to be linked to the terrorist plot to blow up aircraft are being searched by police.

A flat in Forest Road, near Diana Road, and a maisonette in Folkestone Road were raided last night as on-going investigations reached a critical point and the decision was taken to declare a state of high alert.

Three other homes, two in Albert Road and one in Queens Road, are also being searched.

Throughout the night and early morning, 21 arrests were made in London and elsewehere on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism under the Terrorism Act 2000.

The people arrested remain in custody in London where officers will pursue the investigation from the Anti-Terrorist branch.

John Weir, 50, who lives opposite the flat in Forest Road, said several unmarked police cars lined up in front of his house at around 10.30pm and two vans arrived just before midnight, parking at either end of the street.

Around 20 police officers then raided the house containing two flats.

He said: "They did everything very quietly. There were four police in uniform and several plainclothes officers. They did not appear to have any weapons. I know they were not local police because the local police station is just down the road, and they were not from there.

"They went upstairs to the first floor flat and searched it by torchlight. The only lights they turned on were just inside the front door. When they went upstairs they did not turn any lights on and we could see the torches flashing as they started their search.

"They were swarming all over the place. There must have been forensic officers there because I saw them taking tool boxes and lots of equipment inside."

Mr Weir said he did not see police remove any property or take anyone out of the flat.

He added: "The flat was sold around a month ago and it sold overnight. One day it was up for sale and the next weekend they were moving in. No furniture was moved or anything. It was really strange."

Mr Weir said he believed two North African men in their mid-30s were living in the flat, and although he saw them around three weeks ago he has not seen them since. He said they were dressed normally in shorts and T-shirts.

This afternoon uniformed police officers are guarding the damaged front door to the house, and the back entrance in Brookdale Road.

Doreen Cardy, 73, who lives next door, slept through the raid.

"It's frightening really because you don't know who you have living next door to and I don't want to be blown up."

A Folkestone Road resident said he saw two unmarked police vans and plain clothes officers outside the house near the junction with St Mary Road at around 1.30 am.

The front door was damaged and police officers drafted from other areas of the Metropolitan Police guarded the property while forensic investigations were being carried out inside.