A round-up of today’s newspaper articles covering the UK’s involvement in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations at home and abroad.
NB: Updated since first posted.
Freezing assets of terror suspects ‘unlawful and unconstitutional’
Nick Allen, The Telegraph
The Government’s anti-terrorism strategy was dealt a devastating blow today as the High Court ruled that its powers to freeze suspects’ assets were unlawful and unconstitutional.
A judge said the measures, introduced when Gordon Brown was Chancellor, had not been thought through properly and Parliament had been “bypassed”.
Around 70 suspects are currently subject to orders freezing bank accounts containing about £500,000.
The Treasury immediately announced it will appeal the ruling and the judge agreed that suspects’ assets will remain frozen until the outcome of the appeal.
If the appeal fails ministers are considering rewriting anti-terrorism legislation to incorporate asset-freezing powers into the Counter Terrorism Bill.
Freezing assets of terror suspects ruled unlawful by High Court – The Times
Terror asset-freezing ‘unlawful’ – BBC
Terrorism ruling is new blow for UK government – Asharq Alawsat / Reuters
July 7 plotter’s video farewell to daughter
Duncan Gardham, The Telegraph
The leader of the July 7 bombers is shown saying an emotional goodbye to his baby daughter in a home video made public for the first time.
Mohammed Sidique Khan, wearing a white t-shirt, had apparently propped the video camera up as he held his daughter, aged six-months, in his arms and kissed her head.
In the video, played to a jury at Kingston Crown Court, Sidique Khan told his daughter: “Sweetheart, not long to go now and I’m going to really, really miss you a lot.”
British troops in Iraq will be reduced only if “conditions allow”, Defence Secretary Des Browne has told MPs.
About 4,000 UK soldiers are serving in Iraq and the plan had been to cut that number at the next rotation in May.
But Mr Browne said that while the situation on the ground was evolving “it remains prudent that we take time to fully consider further reductions”.
Iraqi offensive draws in extra forces to Basra
Demetri Sevastopulo, Stephen Fidler, Alex Barker, The FT
The US military presence in Basra has grown to 800 troops as its soldiers provide increased support to an Iraqi government offensive against militias, according to coalition military officials.
Until Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, launched his “Charge of the Knights” offensive against Basra militias last month, the US had very few troops in the area, mainly because previously the UK had responsibility for the key southern port city.
The British handed over security to Iraqi forces in December and pulled back 4,100 soldiers to Basra -airport, where they are -performing “overwatch”, as Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, described the mission last week during a visit to Washington.
British officials previously insisted that the drawdown in Iraq and relocation of the remaining 4,100 soldiers would not force the US to divert forces from other areas where they are tackling Sunni insurgents.
Iraq’s Maliki says factions agree to rejoin govt
Asharq Alawsat / Reuters
Parties that walked out of Iraq’s government last year have agreed to rejoin, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Thursday, in what could amount to a long-awaited political breakthrough.
The main Sunni Arab bloc, the Accordance Front, said it intended to submit a list of candidates for cabinet positions within days and could be back in Maliki’s government soon. Its return has long been a major goal of the United States.
But Maliki also repeated a warning that militia groups must disarm, a sign he is unlikely to reconcile quickly with Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and his political movement. “Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said that reconciliation has proved a success and all political blocs will return to the government,” Maliki’s office said in a statement after Maliki met visiting British Foreign Secretary David Miliband.
Police seek inquest anonymity in Jean Charles de Menezes case
Sean O’Neill, The Times
More than 40 Metropolitan Police officers are seeking anonymity before they give evidence at the inquest of Jean Charles de Menezes.
Applications to protect the identities of 42 officers, including the two who fired the shots that killed the Brazilian, have been made to Sir Michael Wright, QC, the retired judge who will preside at the inquest in September. A spokesman for the de Menezes family accused the police of making “a desperate attempt to evade accountability” and called for the inquest to be open and transparent.
The Times understands that most of the officers seeking protection are members of the surveillance and specialist firearms teams that were on duty in South London on the day of the shooting. If called to give oral evidence, they want to do so from behind screens using assumed names.
British Somalia draft eyes increased U.N. presence
Louis Charbonneau, Reuters / Washington Post
Britain has circulated a draft resolution on Somalia to members of the Security Council that would open the door to a stronger U.N. presence and a possible deployment of U.N. peacekeepers.
Somalia’s transitional government has been urging the council to send U.N. peacekeepers to help stabilize the lawless Horn of Africa country.
While the 15 Security Council members agree the situation is dire, most have been reluctant to send U.N. peacekeepers to Somalia, where warlords, Islamist insurgents and Ethiopian-backed Somali government forces are battling.
Airline plot leader ‘considered taking own children’
Staff & Agencies, The Telegraph
Mohammed Said Ali was nine months old when his father was arrested on suspicion of terrorist offences in August 2006.
Passport application documents and photographs were found during a fingertip search of the family home in Nash House, Prospect Hill.
Woolwich Crown Court earlier heard how a police bug allegedly captured Ali considering whether children should be taken on suicide missions.
Speaking to co-defendant Umar Islam, he said: “Should I take my lot on? I know my wife wouldn’t agree to it, but…”
Surveillance video of July 7 bomb plotters
Duncan Gardham, The Telegraph
The first surveillance footage of the leaders of the July 7 bomb plot has been shown to a jury, showing them meeting with a “committed terrorist” outside an East London kebab shop.
The video, which has never been seen before, shows Mohammed Sidique Khan, with a beard and short hair, and Shezhad Tanweer, wearing a woolly hat, as they walk down a street in Upton Park, East London with four other men.
Among the group is Ausman, described in court as a “committed terrorist”, who was accompanied by his brother, Shujah, and another, unidentified man.
Listen to the DPP on terror suspect detention
Joshua Rozenberg, The Telegraph
For some months, Sir Ken Macdonald has been saying that there is no need to extend the detention period from 28 days to a possible 42 days, as clause 22 of the Counter-Terrorism Bill would allow. His main reason is a policy known as threshold charging, which Sir Ken himself introduced as long ago as 2004.
It is set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors, for which the DPP is responsible. Lawyers know that the code sets a two-stage test. Before anyone can be charged, prosecutors must be satisfied that there is a “realistic prospect” of conviction.
If there is enough evidence, they must then decide whether a prosecution is needed in the public interest. This is now called the “full-code test”.
What if there is not enough evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction? Normally, the defendant must be released on bail while the police keep looking for more.
But some defendants present a substantial risk of absconding or committing further offences if granted bail. That is where the threshold test comes in.
An ethical foreign policy is still within reach
Adrian Hamilton, The Independent
The reality of today is that the military solution so beloved of Tony Blair and President Bush has proved disastrous. The idea that the US, Britain and whoever they could rope in as allies would march around the world, re-ordering regimes at will, has been shown to be entirely counter-productive. Indeed the whole concept of righteous Western intervention is looking a throw-back to the Victorian past. There is at least an argument that the most positive thing that the West could now do for human rights around the world is to shut up and look to its own. Its constant meddling – in Haiti, Somalia or Iraq – has done nothing but harm.
And yet people in the democracies (and that includes countries such as Japan, South Africa and Brazil as much as the West) have a right to feel that others should have a right to the privileges they enjoy and that their governments should support those principles, abroad as at home. The world would have been a better place if we hadn’t sucked up so much to Saddam Hussein and almost every dictator round the world (we still do, viz Central Asia and the Arab world).