Terror attack stab victim is US woman spy from GCHQ
AN AMERICAN spy on secondment to GCHQ was the victim of an alleged terror attack near the base, it emerged last night.
Detectives believe that an extremist targeted her at a leisure centre three miles from the security and intelligence centre in Cheltenham.
He pounced while the agent was sitting in a parked car but she managed to stagger out of the vehicle to find help.
She was in a stable condition in hospital yesterday following surgery for serious injuries.
Although her identity has not been revealed, the Mail has learnt she is an American agent on secondment to GCHQ. The nature of her work has not been disclosed but the base has a strong relationship with its US equivalent, the National Security Agency.
Agreements signed at the end of the Second World War remain essential to the security of both nations with GCHQ saying it has ‘stopped many terrorist plots and has saved many lives at home and abroad’.
Police are still quizzing a man arrested at the scene on suspicion of carrying out last Thursday’s attack. Officers were initially treating it as attempted murder but the suspect was re-arrested on suspicion of preparing and instigating a terrorist act.
They have been searching a property in Cheltenham connected to the alleged offender, a 29-year-old from the town.
Residents suggested the victim might have known the suspect and claimed the pair were seen arguing in the car beforehand.
‘They were either parked or had pulled into the car park when she was stabbed and then she managed to get out of the car and get to the leisure centre,’ one neighbour said. ‘There were two ambulances and then the police arrested the bloke in the car. We heard he was Asian.’
A woman who lives nearby said residents were wondering how the stabbing could be connected to extremism. She added: ‘ It’s pretty scary because it’s so quiet round here normally.
‘The police never came to talk to anyone at the houses nearby so maybe they knew something about this before he was arrested.’
The leisure centre in the St Paul’s district of Cheltenham remained closed to the public yesterday. County councillor Stephan Fifield said: ‘People are really curious. I cannot remember there ever being anything to do with terrorism in this area.’
Counter Terrorism Policing South East said the stabbing had developed into a terror probe ‘due to some specific details’.
Assistant Chief Constable Richard Ocone of Gloucestershire Constabulary said: ‘I would like to reassure those living locally or visiting the county that we believe this was an isolated incident and we are not aware of any wider threat to members of the public.’
Spokesmen for GCHQ and for the National Security Agency declined to comment yesterday.
‘Surgery for serious injuries’