• Terrorism scare in quiet market town
  • It was all a malicious hoax, say police
  • Informant claimed pizza shop had gun and explosives
  • Owner tells of shock

ARMED police swooped as a terrorism hoax brought fear to a quiet North Yorkshire market town.

A large area of Knaresborough was sealed off from 5pm until about 8.30pm last night. Children were kept in school and people were told to stay in their homes or businesses.

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North Yorkshire Police had been told there was an “immediate threat to members of the public” at the Paragon Pizza takeaway in High Street. Armed police were posted at various points in the town and officers ordered four men out of a car in Briggate before searching it.

Police have now confirmed the claims were a hoax and they have launched a hunt for those responsible.

Officers thanked Paragon staff for their cooperation and said the incident had caused the takeaway workers “considerable distress”.

Owner Razaul Karim said he was stopped in his car on the way to work at 6pm with colleagues, who were led away in handcuffs.

He said: “Whatever happened is really bad. I want to make sure they find out who gave them this information and why. I have done nothing wrong. I have no idea what their reasons were.”

He said police mentioned the Terrorism Act when searching the car.

He said: “It’s a real shock to me. I can’t believe something like this would happen in Knaresborough. It’s a small town. Everyone is friendly, everyone loves each other and I am really shocked.”

He said police told him they had information there was possibly a gun and explosive powder in the shop.

Paul Kennedy, Assistant Chief Constable of North Yorkshire Police, said: “This was a very alarming incident for members of the public and we would like to thank the communities of Knaresborough for their patience and cooperation while the police dealt with it. This includes the businesses who were affected by the safety cordons and the premises at the centre of the hoax.

“We treat incidents of this nature with the utmost seriousness and can assure members of the public that a full investigation is now under way to establish who is responsible.”

The Major Crime Unit is investigating, but nobody has yet been arrested.

As news of the incident broke, social media was awash with unfounded rumours of armed robberies and a gunman in the town. Pupils at King James School were allowed to leave school only if collected by parents.

Mark Lee, landlord of The Old Royal Oak, in Market Square, said: “There were swarms of police with guns telling everyone to get back. First thing I saw was a blue car with all the doors wide open. The occupants have been taken out, but I could only see one guy police were talking to.”

Christine Thompson, who runs the Give It a Whirl shop beside where the car was stopped, said: “They stopped a car coming up Briggate and they made four men get out. They searched them and put handcuffs on two then they had six police dogs and policemen with guns. They were here threequarters of an hour.”

Local resident Ben Llewelyn, 25, who lives next door to Paragon takeaway in High Street, said: "I finished work at Argos at 6 o'clock and got a phone call from my mum saying I would not be able to get near my house. Police said there was no chance of getting there for a couple of hours and said to get somewhere warm."