UK CT & COIN Features – 20 May 2008

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A round-up of today’s newspaper articles covering the UK’s involvement in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations at home and abroad.

July 7 plot accused stayed near Afghan frontline
James Sturcke, The Guardian

A man accused of helping the July 7 bombers plan their attacks travelled to a base camp near the frontline of the war in Afghanistan with the ringleader of the attacks, Mohammed Siddique Khan, a court heard today.

Waheed Ali, 25, said he “just went with the flow” when his friends suggested joining fighters helping the Taliban.

[The Guardian]

Waheed Ali, Mohammed Shakil and Sadeer Saleem. Photograph: Metropolitan Police

He had travelled to Pakistan to take part in a training camp with Khan in 2001, months before the attack on the World Trade Centre in New York.

There, he told the court, British recruits were given the best tent, special food and their own trainer. “It was because they relied on the British for money,” he said.

At the mountain camp in Mansehra, he and Khan learned how to handle weapons such as Kalashnikov rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.

Fired up by their experiences there, Khan and two other recruits from the camp decided to travel to Afghanistan, the court heard. They were taken to the border by a group who ran the training camp, and began an arduous road journey to Jalalabad. From there they decided to continue on to Kabul.

“Everything just kept going with a sort of snowball effect,” said Ali.

By the time they reached their destination, Ali and Khan were both suffering from serious diarrhoea and were told by the fighters they were too inexperienced to go to the frontline. Ali stayed at base camp helping with the cooking, but Khan recovered enough to make trips to the frontline.

British troops back in Basra ‘no-go’ areas
Damien McElroy, The Telegraph

British soldiers have re-established a permanent presence in the city of Basra, patrolling with Iraqi forces in “no-go” areas they were driven from months ago by Shia militants.

Commanders say the joint operations have, in a matter of weeks, brought a measure of normality to a city that had fallen under the sway of powerful criminal gangs and the Iranian-backed fighters.

But the patrols represent a reverse in policy by British forces, which retreated last year from Basra under a barrage of fire that pushed the UK’s casualty rate temporarily above the Americans.

A botched attempt in March by Iraqi soldiers to take control of Basra pressed the British back to the city centre, following their withdrawal to Basra Airbase in December.

The British military is now operating from a forward base at the Shatt al-Arab Hotel.

Officers hardened by the demands of foot patrols in Northern Ireland are once again leading raw Iraqi recruits past shops and hairdressing salons where posters proclaim loyalty to Moqtada al-Sadr, the Shia cleric whose Mahdi army led attacks on the British.

Man held over 1977 IRA murder of British officer
Henry McDonald, The Guardian

A South Armagh man who recently returned from the United States was today being questioned over the IRA murder of the SAS-trained army captain Robert Nairac 31 years ago.

The 57-year-old suspect was arrested by the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s (PSNI) serious crime squad in connection with the 1977 murder, which remains one of the most mysterious killings of Northern Ireland’s Troubles.

Nairac conducted undercover surveillance against the IRA in Ireland’s border region at the height of the conflict.

The suspect was being held at Antrim Town police station. A PSNI spokesman confirmed the man was being questioned in connection with Nairac’s murder.

The force is understood to be in discussions with authorities in the US about the possibility of extraditing two other suspects in the case.

[The Guardian]

Nairac, who was 28 years old, was abducted by the IRA at Jonesborough, Co Armagh, on May 14 1977. He was taken across the border into a forest in the Irish Republic and shot dead. His body was never recovered, and the soldier has since been classed as “disappeared” – one of up to a dozen people who were killed and buried in secret by the IRA.

Also:

Robert Nairac: dizzying round of Northern Ireland inquiries digs up past with profit
The Times

How long should Northern Ireland pursue justice after the Troubles?
The Times

Home Office plans to create ‘Big brother’ database for phones calls, emails and web use
Andy Bloxham, The Telegraph

The Home Office will create a database to store the details of every phone call made, every email sent and every web page visited by British citizens in the previous year under plans currently under discussion, it has emerged.

The Government wants to create the system to fight terrorism and crime. The police and security services believe it will make it easier to access important data as communications become more complex.

Telecoms firms and internet service providers (ISPs) have already been approached by the Home Office, which would be given customer records if the plans were realised.

The security services and police would then be able to access records for any individual over the previous 12 months by gaining permission through the courts.

Also:

Criticism for ‘UK database’ plan
BBC

Two released after terror arrests
BBC

Two men arrested by police under terrorism legislation at the campus of the University of Nottingham last week have been released without charge.

The men, aged 30 and 22, were arrested on 14 May. One was reported to be a student and the other a former student.

Officers described the arrests as a low-key operation in conjunction with the Midlands Counter-terrorism Unit.

Nottinghamshire police said one of the men had been re-arrested under immigration legislation.

Cluster bombs: victory now may mean loss later
Bronwen Maddox, The Times

Britain will probably succeed in getting the ugly compromise on the use of cluster bombs that it wants from this week’s international conference in Dublin.

From a reluctance to throw away what is in the store cupboard, even if out of date, it is insisting on holding on to the right to use one type, maybe two, of the weapon.

Like use of the bombs themselves, this manoeuvre may bring it short-term tactical relief at a great long-term cost.

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