UK CT & COIN Features – 23 April 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 21 bomb plotters lose appeal
Haroon Siddique, The Guardian

Four men serving at least 40 years for planning the failed July 21 suicide bombings in London today lost their court of appeal bid to challenge their convictions.

Muktar Said Ibrahim, 29, Yassin Omar, 26, Ramzi Mohammed, 25, and Hussain Osman, 28 were found guilty last year of conspiracy to murder, for attempting to blow up Tube trains and a bus.

All of the men came to Britain as refugees from countries in the war-torn Horn of Africa and were allowed to stay in the UK, or were granted British citizenship.

The attempted bombings came just two weeks after four suicide bombers attacked London’s transport network, murdering 52 people.

Mystery buyer of Afghan poppy resin thrives on drug trade
Michael Evans, The Times

Everyone in this part of Helmand is waiting for the arrival of “The Businessman” – a mysterious individual who turns up at about this time each year to buy poppy resin from the acres of crops in the green belt along the Helmand river.

No one knows what nationality he is – Afghan, Pakistani or Iranian – but during the winter he turns up with cash to pay the farmers to keep them in food and supplies, on the understanding that he gets the lion’s share of the poppy resin the following April or May. Even the locals refer to him as The Businessman, never putting a name to the one who guarantees them an income, although the farmers receive a meagre wage for a product that generates millions of dollars further up the drugs chain as heroin in the rest of the world.

The Taleban demand one kilo of the poppy resin for every ten produced, telling the farmers it is a tax that they have to pay. But The Businessman scoops up the rest, and neither the farmers nor the Taleban interfere. As one British Army officer said: “This is real Mafia territory; it’s like The Sopranos but without the humour.”

Police ‘have foiled 15 terror plots since 7/7’
Richard Edwards, The Telegraph

Fifteen terrorist plots have been foiled in the three years since the London bombings, police chiefs have disclosed as they called for an extension to the time limit that suspects can be held without charge.

The country’s most senior police officers said publicly for the first time that Britain was the primary target for Muslim extremists, ahead of America and other European countries.

Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, told MPs that because of the escalating threat, officers needed more time to detain terror suspects, who were emerging from “left field” and moving “very fast” to carry out their plots.

Holding terror suspects for 42 days not needed, says DPP
Nigel Morris, The Independent

Plans to detain terrorist suspects for up to 42 days without charge suffered a fresh setback after the controversial measure was described as unnecessary by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Sir Ken Macdonald made clear his scepticism about the move and disclosed that no one had been held for more than 14 days since last summer. And Lord Goldsmith, the former attorney general, warned the extension could backfire by encouraging angry young Muslim men to turn to violence.

Their intervention will embolden Labour MPs who are threatening to vote against moves to raise the detention period from 28 days to 42 days. The vote is likely to be held in June.

Also:

DPP chief: extending detention period to 42 days is unnecessary – Alan Travis, The Guardian

Crossing the threshold
Leader, The Guardian

Of all objections to the government’s counter-terrorism bill, the most telling comes from the director of public prosecutions, Sir Ken Macdonald. He is the man who, under the proposals, would have to authorise the detention of suspects beyond 28 days. He, more than anyone, is in a position to know whether the current limit hampers prosecutors, letting dangerous suspects go free. If he argued for a change in the law, he would be listened to. But he does not think the new power is needed.

Yesterday, appearing before the committee of MPs considering the legislation, he laid out his objections. His case is not that police can always complete their investigations within the present 28-day limit. It is that they do not need to do so because the threshold of evidence needed to bring charges in serious cases has been lowered. This, in certain circumstances, means that people can be charged on the basis of “reasonable suspicion” that they may be guilty of a crime, rather than the full test of “a realistic prospect of conviction”. This point is crucial.

Freak weather destroys Afghan poppies
Jerome Starkey, The Independent

Faltering British efforts to tackle Afghanistan’s poppy crop have found an unlikely ally – in the weather.

Freak weather linked to global warming is expected to reduce parts of the country’s opium harvest drastically. Scientists believe freezing winter temperatures followed by late rains and a possible drought may cut this year’s yields, with some farmers losing half of their crop.

The fierce winter cold – which claimed hundreds of lives across Afghanistan – is thought to have stopped millions of poppy seeds from germinating. Late rains have then stunted many of the plants that survived.

British ex-jihadis form ranks for tolerance
Mark Rice-Oxley, The Christian Science Monitor

They once plotted insurrection in Britain. Young, middle-class, and angry, they were the vanguard of a generation of disaffected Muslims that, at its most extreme, gave rise to the July 7, 2005, transportation bombers.

But now, in one of the most visible assaults on political Islam from within the British Muslim community, a network of ex-radicals launched on Tuesday a movement to fight the same ideology that they once worked to spread.

The Quilliam Foundation – named for a 19th-century British convert to Islam – aims to propagate a tolerant and pluralistic view of Islam among young Muslims who are the most vulnerable to radicalism.

“We are trying to rescue our faith from those who have sadly hijacked it,” says Ed Husain, author of “The Islamist,” a book about his own radical years, and deputy director of the foundation. “There is a Western Islam in the making and it is not arrogant or extreme.”

Two men charged with terror offences
Jack Doyle, The Independent

Two men were arrested and charged with terror offences today, Scotland Yard said.

Mohammed Abushamma, 20, from Islington, north London, and Qasim Abukar, 20, from Tufnell Park, north London, were charged under the Terrorism Act.

Sources said the men were arrested after getting off an inbound flight to Heathrow this morning. It is believed the charges relate to alleged planned terror attacks overseas.

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