2 Indian immigrants smuggled into British military base

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London, Jul 18 (UNI) Two Indians were among five illegal immigrants who allegedly smuggled themselves into a high-security British military base on a convoy of army trucks returning from Kosovo.

Police said the Indians were aged 24 and 26, while other illegal immigrants were two Afghans aged 16 and 18, and a 15-year-old Iranian. The names were not provided.

The shocked soldiers had to wrestle two of the stowaways to the ground after discovering them as the vehicles returned from Kosovo on Tuesday (July 15). Another three men leapt from the lorries in a desperate attempt to flee and were only captured with the help of police officers and sniffer dogs.

After being rounded up, they were held captive by 35 battle-hardened troops before being removed to an immigration detention centre.

The stowaways were believed to have sneaked on board the convoy as it waited to cross the Channel at the French port of Calais on the way back from the Balkans.

After arriving at Dover, they remained undetected during the 272-km trip across England to the Duke of Gloucester Barracks in South Cerney, Gloucestershire. Their hiding place was only discovered during a security check at the base, which was used to move troops, weapons and vehicles to Iraq and Afghanistan.

The soldiers found two of the illegal immigrants as they removed protective canopies from the low-loader lorries at the barracks.

Army Captain Giles Cutter said, ''Fortunately there was a squadron on duty and a few burly Fijian soldiers wrestled the first two to the ground. We knew there was at least one left so we called a round-up operation.'' ''Further three individuals were apprehended and we had them all lying on the floor with 35 young soldiers surrounding them.

They all seemed very jovial and quite happy. They did not seem concerned that they had jumped into an army barrack,'' Captain Cutter stated.

A Gloucestershire police spokesman said servicemen at the barracks called them at 5 pm (local time) on Tuesday. ''It seems that they had spotted people jumping out from the canopies when the convoy came to an halt inside the camp. The police joined the search and it took about 20 minutes to round them up all with the help of a military sniffer dog.'' The stowaways were given food and water before being taken to a local police station from where they were handed to immigration officers. The convoy, which was driven by private contractors, was shipping military Land Rovers back from Kosovo to the UK.

The Defence Ministry said there was no security breach as the illegal immigrants were discovered at the first military checkpoint.

A spokesman said, ''We can confirm that five individuals were detained at South Cerney on July 15 as part of normal security entry procedures and have been handed over to Gloucestershire Police.'' A UK Border Agency spokesman said, ''The first man was swiftly and successfully transferred to our specialist teams of UK border Agency officers. We will remove those with no right to remain in the UK.'' UNI XC PD RK1736

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