UK CT & COIN Features – 29 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.


Hamburger Hill: frontline base in a sea of poppies British soldiers dare not clear
Declan Walsh, The Guardian

The British soldiers at Hamburger Hill, a tiny base in the badlands of southern Helmand, sit on two frontlines of the Afghan war. One is vigorously contested; the other entirely abandoned.

The base – a 100ft (30 metres) high mound of sandy soil, machine guns and Scottish soldiers – is located across the river from a Taliban-controlled village. The latest fighting erupted at lunchtime yesterday when the insurgents opened fire on a British helicopter. It ended moments later when a bomb dropped from a Harrier jet slammed into their position, killing at least four insurgents, officers said.

But the other frontline is even closer to Hamburger Hill. A sea of poppy fields surrounds the hilltop base, starting at the barbed-wire perimeter fence. “As you can see, we are surrounded 360 degrees by poppy,” said Sergeant Brian Russell of 5 Scots A Company, standing behind a Javelin rocket launcher.

Nato’s Afghan tour ‘beset by problems’
James Kirkup, The Telegraph

The Nato mission in Afghanistan is “critically” short of key troops and equipment, Gordon Brown has told allies.

The Daily Telegraph has obtained a confidential Foreign and Commonwealth Office paper which admits to a catalogue of problems and weaknesses in Western attempts to stabilise the country.

On the Nato mission, the paper warns: “Critical military gaps remain to be filled.”

The three-page document, which summarises the British view of Afghanistan, was drawn up at Mr Brown’s request to be distributed to Western allies.

Drugs for guns: how the Afghan heroin trade is fuelling the Taliban insurgency
Jerome Starkey, The Independent

The heroin flooding Britain’s streets is threatening the lives of UK troops in Afghanistan, an Independent investigation can reveal.

Russian gangsters who smuggle drugs into Britain are buying cheap heroin from Afghanistan and paying for it with guns. Smugglers told The Independent how Russian arms dealers meet Taliban drug lords at a bazaar near the old Afghan-Soviet border, deep in Tajikistan’s desert. The bazaar exists solely to trade Afghan drugs for Russian guns – and sometimes a bit of sex on the side.

The drugs are destined for Britain’s streets. The guns go straight to the Taliban front line. The weapons on sale include machine guns, sniper rifles and anti-aircraft weapons like the ones used in the attempt to assassinate the Afghan President Hamid Karzai last weekend.

“We never sell the drugs for money,” boasted one of the smugglers. “We exchange them for ammunition and Kalashnikovs.”

MI5 accused of colluding in torture of terrorist suspects
Ian Cobain, The Guardian

Officers of the Security Service, MI5, are being accused of “outsourcing” the torture of British citizens to a notorious Pakistani intelligence agency in an attempt to obtain information about terrorist plots and to secure convictions against al-Qaida suspects.

A number of British terrorism suspects who have been arrested in Pakistan at the request of UK authorities say their interrogation by Security Service officers, shortly after brutal torture at the hands of agents of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI), has convinced them that MI5 colluded in the mistreatment.

Teenager terror suspect charged
The Independent

Bristol teenager Andrew Ibrahim, who was arrested before three controlled explosions were carried out at his home, has been charged under the Terrorism Act.

Ibrahim, 19, who has also been charged with explosives offences, will appear before City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday.

Avon and Somerset Police Assistant Chief Constable Jackie Roberts said: “From our initial inquiries, we are satisfied that he was working alone.” She called on the community to be “alert but not alarmed”.

Also:

Bristol teenager Andrew Ibrahim charged under Terrorism ActThe Telegraph
Teenager facing terrorism chargesBBC

Ministers accused of ignoring evidence of abuse in Iraq
Andrew Sparrow, The Guardian

David Miliband, the foreign secretary, and Des Browne, the defence secretary, were today accused of “closing their minds” to evidence of the systematic abuse of Iraqi prisoners by British soldiers in Iraq.

Phil Shiner, a human rights lawyer, told a parliamentary committee that politicians and senior military officers should take responsibility for the fact that British soldiers used unlawful interrogation techniques on Iraqi detainees.

He told the joint committee on human rights, which is investigating complaints of torture and inhumane treatment carried out by British troops in Iraq, that there should be a single judicial inquiry into allegations of abuse.

A report published by the Ministry of Defence on this issue in January was “woefully inadequate”, Shiner said. The MoD report said the number of abuse allegations was “tiny” but Shiner, who has represented Iraqis complaining of abuse, told the MPs and peers on the committee that he did not accept the numbers were tiny.

600 British troops to be sent to Kosovo
Andrew Woodcock, The Independent

Britain is to send 600 soldiers to Kosovo to assist Nato with peacekeeping activities, Defence Secretary Des Browne announced today.

The troops from 2nd Battalion The Rifles are to go to the newly-independent Balkan state at the end of May for a one-month deployment, ending on 30 June.

‘Paper thin’ Army as final troops deployed
Thomas Harding, The Telegraph

The Armed Forces are being stretched to “dangerous levels”, critics claimed yesterday after it emerged that a final reserve battalion will be sent to Kosovo.

Des Browne, the Defence Secretary, will tell Parliament that a battle group of more than 600 troops from the 2nd Bn The Rifles will fly out to a potentially hostile reception next month.

In order to avoid accusations that Britain has no reserve battalion to deal with emergencies at home or abroad, the MoD rapidly created a new force last month.

The 3rd Bn Royal Regiment of Scotland was brought in to replace 2 Rifles as the Spearhead Land Element when defence planners realised the Rifles might be needed in Kosovo.

The Rifles were renamed the “Operational Reserve Force” and will now head to Pristina in late May coming under the command of the UN-led operation.

Three released by terror police
BBC

Three men arrested on suspicion of terrorist offences last week have been released without charge, Scotland Yard has said.

The trio were questioned for seven days by the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command.

The three men were arrested in east London last Wednesday and detained under the Terrorism Act.

Those released are a 24-year-old from Walthamstow, a 25-year-old from Bethnal Green and a 23-year-old from Stepney.

When they were arrested, sources said the men were suspected of preparing terror acts abroad rather than in the UK.

Trio held in Tamil Tigers terror probe
Chris Greenwood, The Independent

Three men were arrested today by counter-terrorist officers in London and Wales as part of a long-term investigation into the Tamil Tigers.

Scotland Yard said dawn raids took place at residential and business properties in Newtown, Powys, Mitcham, south-west London, and Surrey.

Two men, aged 39 and 46, were arrested at separate addresses in Newtown, and a third, aged 33, was held in Mitcham, a spokesman said.

All three men were arrested on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.

Also:

Three held in UK for ‘funding Tamil Tigers’The Telegraph

Bomber joked about his death
Nathan Rees, The Independent

More home video footage of the July 7 bombings ringleader Mohammed Siddique Khan with his baby daughter was shown to a court yesterday for the first time.

The recording shows Khan in front of a fireplace talking with his wife, who is filming him, about the perils of travelling.

The scenes were shot the day before he flew to Pakistan in November 2004 to “fight jihad”.

During the discussion Khan says he has less than 24 hours before he goes while holding his daughter Maryam and at one point lifting her aloft in the air then kissing her.

The video was today played to Kingston Crown Court where three men are standing trial accused of helping plan the 2005 attacks on the London transport network.

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