A round-up of today’s newspaper articles covering the UK’s involvement in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations at home and abroad.
New militant group threatens Ulster peace
Henry McDonald, The Guardian
A new militant republican organisation has emerged in Northern Ireland to threaten the peace process, the body monitoring the paramilitary ceasefires warned yesterday.
The International Monitoring Commission, which was set up to report on the status of the ceasefires, identified the organisation Oglaigh na hEireann (Army of Ireland) as active in killings, riots and targeting police officers for assassination. It is opposed to the peace strategy of Sinn Féin and the mainstream IRA.
In its 17th report, the commission also stated that members and past members of the Provisional IRA were involved in the murder of a south Armagh man, Paul Quinn, in October. He was beaten to death in a farmhouse shed by up to a dozen men and his family have accused local members of the Provisional IRA of organising and carrying out the murder.
Major General Barney White-Spunner, the UK’s senior military officer in southern Iraq, has been talking about his pride in the success of Iraqi troops during the ongoing operation in Basra which has seen them rid the city of a number of militia elements.
Speaking to Evan Davis on BBC Radio Four’s Today programme Maj Gen White-Spunner described the current situation in Basra as Iraqi forces, supported by UK and other Coalition troops, continued the ongoing security operation, Charge of the Knights, in the city.
Maj Gen White-Spunner was also challenged on whether he thought the current, relative stability could have been achieved earlier:
“I think what’s critical to this is that it’s Iraqi-led and it’s – I know you’ve heard this line from us often – but I mean it had to be an Iraqi solution, there was never going to be a very long-term solution with the British running the security day to day in Basra.
“We had to train the Iraqi security forces, which is what we’ve been doing for the past few years. I have to say we do actually take a real sense of pride from what they’ve achieved, they’ve been incredibly professional in Basra.
“They’ve also been sensitive to the needs of the population. They have realised the importance of aid distribution, of doing humanitarian work, of sticking to arresting people only with arrest warrants, which I think shows a tremendous maturity. I think what we needed to happen is the Iraqi forces needed to be got to the stage that they’re at now.”
Stop pandering to Muslims says ‘silent majority’
Riazat Butt, The Guardian
The government’s attempts to placate Muslims will cause long-term damage to communities, a charity said yesterday.
The warning came from Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, chair and co-founder of the British Muslims for Secular Democracy, a new organisation claiming to represent the “silent majority who feel no conflict between their faith and democracy”.
Speaking before the launch, attended by Baroness Kishwer Faulkner and former Islamist Ed Husain, the journalist said the government was pandering to Muslims by granting too many concessions, fuelling their separation from the rest of society.
Details of July 7 ‘bomb factory’ disclosed
Duncan Gardham, The Telegraph
The first pictures of the bomb factory allegedly used by the July 7 terror gang to assemble the home-made explosives that killed 52 people have been shown to a jury.
Chemical residues, bulbs, wires, batteries and traces of high explosives were said to have been discovered in a flat in Leeds where the four devices were prepared.
The photographs were taken inside 18 Alexandra Grove, the “principal” site for the construction of the bombs, a court was told.
Containers of a mixture of black pepper and hydrogen peroxide, used as the main charge, were allegedly found in the bath, with traces of the high explosive HMTD on a cooker in the kitchen.
British soldier killed by mine in Afghanistan
Patrick Sawer, The Telegraph
A British soldier has been killed and three others injured when their patrol vehicle hit a mine in Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence said today.
The four soldiers were all members of the Household Cavalry Regiment, the same regiment as Prince Harry. An Afghan national was also injured.
The incident happened at 1.50pm yesterday when the soldiers were providing protection for a routine patrol in the Nowzad area of northern Helmand.
The death takes the number of British military fatalities in that country since the start of operations in November 2001 to 95.
Of those, 69 were killed in action or died of combat wounds while the remainder died from illness, accidents, non-combat injuries or whose cause of death has not yet been formally classified.
‘Unsuitable vehicle’ to blame for Marine’s death
Tom Peterkin , The Telegraph
A shortage of armoured vehicles caused the death of a Royal Marine in a gun battle with Taliban terrorists in Afghanistan, an inquest found on Friday.
Richard Watson, 23, would have survived if he had not been in the wrong type of vehicle under enemy fire.
Marine Watson, of Caterham, Surrey, was shot while patrolling in a light Pinzgauer utility vehicle in Helmand Province on Dec 12, 2006.
Last year it was reported that the Helmand battle group was meant to have 96 armoured vehicles by the end of March 2007 but only 16 had been delivered.