Britain's largest shopping centre was evacuated on Saturday (21 November) evening following a bomb alert. Hundreds of shoppers were caught up in the drama at Bluewater as bomb disposal experts carried out a controlled explosion after a suspicious package was discovered close to a Marks & Spencer store.

A bomb disposal team were seen arriving at the site after the suspect package was reported to Kent Police at about 5.30pm.

Members of the public at the Kent shopping centre said they had heard a small blast and were told by police it was a controlled explosion. This was later confirmed by police, who said the package turned out to be 'harmless'.

Bluewater confirmed on its Twitter page that an area of the shopping centre had been cordoned off while police investigated. The cordoned off area is believed to have been between the food hall and a Marks & Spencer store.

A Bluewater spokesman said: "Following reports of an unattended package, we have cordoned off an area while police investigate. We are liaising with Kent Police."

Eyewitnesses took to Twitter to share details of the incident. "At Bluewater and half of it has been evacuated for a suspected suspicious package. Just heard a loud bang and people started running out," said one person. Another tweeted: "Bomb disposal team have gone through with a controlled explosion shortly after 9pm @Bluewater."

This evening a spokesman for Kent Police said: "Kent Police has been dealing with a security alert at Bluewater shopping centre this evening after a package was discovered unattended.

"Several shops were evacuated as a precaution and police officers were deployed to ensure everybody was safe. A controlled explosion was carried out on the package, and was found to be harmless. Enquiries are underway to establish who owns the package and why it was left unattended."

Chief Superintendent Andrea Bishop said: "The safety of the public is our top priority and I would like to thank all the staff and shoppers at Bluewater for their co-operation tonight."

In 2007, five men linked to al-Qaeda were convicted of planning to bomb the Bluewater shopping centre, along with the Ministry of Sound nightclub in Central London, the gas or electricity network and Parliament during Prime Minister's Questions.

Omar Khyam, Waheed Mahmood, Anthony Garcia, Jawad Akbar and Salahuddin Amin had bought 1,300lb of ammonium nitrate fertiliser from an agricultural merchant to prepare for their attacks. They were jailed for life following a year-long trial at the Old Bailey in London.

The UK bomb alert comes just hours after Brussels was put into security lockdown after Belgian intelligence received 'precise information' of a planned Paris-style ISIS attack in the capital.

Hacktivist group Anonymous also claims to have uncovered plots by IS for terrorist attacks in Paris, UK, US, Indonesia, Italy and Lebanon, to occur on Sunday, 22 November. A subgroup of Anonymous called OpParisIntel published a statement claiming that they had found details about an imminent attack by IS, just over a week after 130 people were killed in Paris.