UK CT & COIN Features – 4 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.

Time for Nato allies to share the pain
Sean Rayment, The Sunday Telegraph

Sometime this summer, the death toll of British troops in Afghanistan will reach the psychological milestone of 100 – it currently stands at 95.

It will be interesting to see if John Reid, the former defence secretary who said in April 2006 that he hoped British troops could leave Afghanistan in 2009 “without firing one shot”, will have any comment to make. I doubt it .

The nature of the war is changing. Mass attacks by the Taliban are all but gone, replaced by tactics learnt from the Iraqi insurgency. The last soldier to be shot dead in Helmand died in September; of the 14 servicemen who have died since, 13 have been killed by either mines or improvised explosive devices. The other died in a road accident.

The small British force in Helmand has done a magnificent job in the past two years. But there are growing concerns over whether Nato has the stomach for a long fight.

Petty fraudster was informant in botched Forest Gate raid
Michael Gillard, The Independent

Scotland Yard’s botched anti-terrorist operation in Forest Gate, east London, which led to the shooting of an innocent Muslim man, was based on the word of petty criminal serving a sentence for dishonesty offences unconnected to terrorism.

Official sources have told The Independent on Sunday that prison officers believed the informant was “operating out of his league”. Yet Special Branch continued to give him special phone favours even after his intelligence proved false.

The raid in 2006, involving 250 officers, worsened community relations and sparked a national debate on police tactics. Scotland Yard, backed by the Government and the police watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), has always maintained it had credible and specific intelligence. But the informant and his information were never independently assessed.

The revelation will further undermine the Government’s case for extending police powers to detain terror suspects without charge from 28 to 42 days.

British journalist Richard Butler tells how he survived a brutal Iraqi kidnapping
Jon Swain, The Sunday Times

BLINDFOLDED, his wrists tied and his body stuffed between the seats of a minibus, clad only in a T-shirt and underpants, an AK-47 assault rifle jammed into his side, Richard Butler thought he was going to die.

It was night. No dogs barked. No cars moved. Through his woollen hood he sensed that the vehicle was no longer travelling on tarmac. “This is probably the end,” he thought. “They’re taking me out into the desert to be shot.”

Lying next to him his interpreter, also a prisoner, clung to him like a frightened child. Butler’s instinct for survival was strong and he urged his Iraqi colleague and friend to stay calm.

The bus slowed. He heard metal gates being operated and he cheered up. There would be no bullet between his shoulders this time, he thought. He would stay alive a little longer.

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