Bath targeted in latest terror attack threat

Bath Abbey Credit: Geoff Kirby/PA

RAF pilots foiled a terrorist plot planned for four cities including Bath, it has emerged.

The attacks are understood to have been planned for a week after the Paris massacre in November in which 130 members of the public were shot or killed in five bomb explosions.

It was discovered after two foreign pilots, one who was flying for an airline on an intelligence service watchlist, were intercepted talking about the plot.

Both Bath MP, Ben Howlett, and council leader Tim Warren have reacted to the news.

The pilots used coded messages from the cockpits of their passenger jets, but the Arabic transcripts were passed to GCHQ where spies established they were talking about Bath, as well as London, Brighton and Ipswich.

They were using the emergency 'Mayday' channel in the belief they were not being monitored, and it's claimed they used codes with musical references, often referring to "hits".

The Sunday Express reported the conversations included boasts a song would “climb up the charts” – a veiled reference to increases in jihadi recruits once the attacks had been launched.

It is thought the pilots were preparing to smuggle in explosive devices or chemical weapons. The messages were intercepted as they flew from a European airport to Middle Eastern destinations.

Bath Spa Credit: Geoff Kirby/PA

After the conversation was intercepted by RAF operators the recordings were sent to GCHQ in Cheltenham, where analysts took seven hours to decode the transmissions.

Neither aircraft was intercepted and the pilots were allowed to fly on to their destinations. It is not known where they are now but their identities are known to security services and it is understood they are now high-profile, watchlist targets.