US weapons base 'inspection' claim

PEACE activists fear a Suffolk military base could be a "sitting duck" for terrorist targets after they breached security for the second time in seven months.

PEACE activists fear a Suffolk military base could be a "sitting duck" for terrorist targets after they breached security for the second time in seven months.

The protesters claim 30 nuclear weapons are stored at RAF Lakenheath and widely publicised their intentions to trespass onto the American airbase yesterday,

They said the ease at which they chopped through the perimeter fence, despite a heightened police presence, gave cause for concern.

Three groups, which included activists from across Europe, breached security during a day-long campaign they hoped would give members an opportunity to complete a 'citizen's inspections' of stored weaponry.

A spokesmen for the Lakenheath Action Group (LAG) said their representatives spent considerable time on the site before detention, military police insisted they had been arrested within just five minutes of arriving.

"The main aim of the action was to demonstrate against the nuclear weapons stored at the base," said Catherine Amos.

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"These are illegal under international law, but Britain and America have, through NATO, stated they are willing to use them as a first strike against countries which do not have nuclear weapons.

"This is thoroughly appalling, particularly in the light of the war against Iraq, where there was no evidence of the suspected weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), when we have got WMDs sitting on our doorstep.

"We feel it is up to us as citizens to keep our government in check. We feel that through these activities, and raising these issues on the political agenda, we can have an affect. The public are otherwise not aware of the presence of these weapons.

Eleven people were arrested on suspicion of criminal damage and trespass during the day, with nine detained inside the base by Ministry of Defence (MoD) Police and two outside, by officers from Suffolk Constabulary.

But the protesters insisted they had done nothing wrong – and were acting to uphold the law by preventing a greater crime from being committed.

"I think everybody who is involved in this is aware of the fact they are going to get arrested if they break into the base," added Ms Amos. "However, we do not feel we have done anything wrong.

"Our action is to prevent a greater crime occurring, and therefore we are upholding the law, not breaking it.

The incident comes just seven months after nine demonstrators broke into the base, chained themselves together and rode bicycles along the runway.

But officials from the MoD insisted everything possible was done to uphold security at Lakenheath.

"We made nine arrests early yesterday morning on suspicion of criminal damage and associated public order or trespass offences," said a spokesman. "The protesters got onto the base having cut through the fence, and therefore fell into our jurisdiction. I understand they were detained in around five minutes, and the incident was closed.

"Suffolk Police also arrested two people - one male, one female - outside the base. We have no problem with peaceful protest, and indeed, when consistent with security, we do what we can to facilitate it.

"Where it turns into criminal activity, we always take appropriate steps to uphold the law."

Lieutenant Ed Ekpoudom, of Lakenheath Public Affairs, said: "We can confirm there was an incident today, but cannot discuss specific security measures, other than to say appropriate measures are in place.

"We discourage people from trespassing but do recognise they have a right to demonstrate peacefully. Regarding nuclear weapons, we can neither confirm or deny their presence at the base."

nA spokesman for Suffolk police added that a 76-year-old woman from Shotesham, Norfolk, had been charged with possession of articles to cause criminal damage following yesterday's demonstration. She will appear before St Edmundsbury Magistrates on Thursday.

A 36-year-old man from Bungay, arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to cause criminal damage, was still being questioned by officers last night.

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