The munitions were reported missing when the freight train arrived in Oxfordshire (Reuters)
The munitions were reported missing when the freight train arrived in Oxfordshire (Reuters)

Two men have been arrested on suspicion of theft after munitions owned by the Ministry of Defence were stolen from a freight train travelling from Cumbria to Oxfordshire.

Ten packages of the L9 Bar anti-tank mines were reported missing when the train arrived at Didcot, Oxfordshire on the morning of 25 October, prompting an investigation led by the North-West Counter Terrorism Unit (NWCT).

Seven packages were subsequently found near a railway line in Warrington, Cheshire, while the remaining three were safely recovered by specially trained Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) officers from an address in Birkenhead.

A 29-year-old man was arrested in Birkenhead by the NWCT, and a 31-year-old man was arrested in Sheffield by officers from the North-East Counter Terrorism Unit.

It is believed the robbery was down to the men being "opportunists" who were unaware of the sensitive material, rather than a specific raid. Police do not believe the theft was terrorist-related.

The mines were not live at the time of the theft. They would need extra components to become active.

Assistant Chief Constable Terry Sweeney, of the NWCT, said: "At this stage there is nothing to suggest the theft is terrorist-related, but due to the potential complexity of the investigation, our inquiries are being led by counter-terrorism officers.

"I want to make it clear that, in their normal condition, these munitions are stable and do not pose a risk to the public.

As part of ongoing enquiries led by the NWCT, a number of addresses in Birkenhead and Sheffield are being searched.