UK CT & COIN Features – 12 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.

British troops guide US Marines on anti-Taleban raids in Afghanistan
Michael Evans, The Times

US Marines supported by British troops in Afghanistan now command three key locations south of the town of Garmsir, in Helmand province, putting pressure on the main supply routes of the Taleban for arms, opium and reinforcements.

For the first time since the Nato campaign expanded to the south in 2006 the Taleban stranglehold in this part of Helmand – stretching from the Pakistan border to Garmsir – has been weakened. Crucial vantage points are now held by 1,200 US Marines from 24 Marine Expeditionary Unit (24 MEU) and 200 soldiers from the 2nd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland (2 Scots) battle group.

Lieutenant-Colonel Robin Matthews, the chief British spokesman for Task Force Helmand, said that the US men were guided by British troops as they moved at night “over extraordinarily difficult terrain . . . to launch their assault”.

Loyalist killer Michael Stone ‘wanted to slit Gerry Adams’s throat’
David Byers, The Times

A convicted loyalist killer attempted to break into the Northern Ireland assembly chamber to slit the throats of Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness because he “couldn’t handle” Republicans being in government, a court heard today.

Michael Stone, 53, attempted to storm the building in order to kill both the Sinn Fein president and his colleague on November 2006, the day Mr McGuinness was designated Deputy First Minister.

The Times

However, Belfast Crown Court heard that his plan ended in failure when he was detained by security staff at the entrance to the building.

Mr Stone faces a total of 14 charges, including attempting to murder Mr Adams and Mr McGuinness. As well as the attempted murder charges, he is accused of possessing home-made explosives and an imitation gun with intent.

He is also charged with carrying a garrotte, three knives and an axe, and with assaulting staff members who trapped him in the revolving doors at Stormont.

Mr Stone has since denied the charges, claiming his attack was “performance art”.

Revealed: torture centre linked to MI5
Ian Cobain, The Guardian

A secret interrogation centre in Pakistan where British terrorism suspects are alleged to have been tortured after UK authorities had them arrested has been found by the Guardian.

The centre, run by the country’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI), is in the Saddar district of Rawalpindi. It is surrounded by high walls and watchtowers, and bristling with surveillance cameras.

So notorious is the ISI that local photographers are reluctant to take pictures of the centre, although satellite images are readily available.

A British citizen says he was driven there in 2004, held for 10 months and tortured. Salahuddin Amin, now aged 33, had moved to Pakistan three years earlier from Luton, Bedfordshire.

Amin was eventually returned to the UK and successfully prosecuted. His trial heard that he was interviewed by officers from the British security service MI5 several times during his detention. His lawyers allege ISI officers beat and whipped him, and threatened him with an electric drill, in between the MI5 interviews, and that the British officers must have known he was being mistreated.

British troops in Afghanistan should fight for 15 months, not six, says Nato chief
Daily Mail

The commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan has urged British troops to spend more time on the frontline – and away from their loved ones – in a bid to get better results against the Taliban.

General Dan McNeill insisted longer tours of up to 15 months would lead to a swifter victory against the insurgents, that could see a reduction in the number of international troops as early as 2011.

British soliders currently fight spend six months in the country before returning home.

Gen McNeill, an American who is nearing the end of his 17 month command in Kabul, said longer tours were key to winning the counter-insurgency because they let soldiers develop a better understanding of the country.

Pull down NI peace walls: Paisley
BBC

First Minister Ian Paisley has said that he would like to see work begin on taking down Northern Ireland’s peace walls. Speaking at ministerial question time Mr Paisley welcomed the Mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg’s recent call for the structures to be demolished.

BBC

However, he said that local communities would ultimately be responsible for making the decision. “Outsiders pulling down walls will accomplish nothing,” said Mr Paisley.

….

More than 40 so-called peace walls have been erected in sectarian flashpoint areas in Belfast, Londonderry and other parts of Northern Ireland.

‘Loyalist’ may have to sell house
BBC

An alleged high-ranking loyalist paramilitary may have to sell his home after agreeing to hand over £150,000 to the Serious Organised Crime Agency.

Walter and wife Finulla Black reached agreement amid claims that he amassed wealth through counterfeiting and tax evasion. It is also alleged that he was involved in poteen manufacturing.

The couple have now been given three months to raise the money or sell their home at Birches Road in Portadown.

Opening a case which is due to run all week, lawyers for the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) said police believed Mr Black, 66, to be quartermaster within the Loyalist Volunteer Force.

Barrister Joe Aiken also disclosed that Mr Black was the father-in-law of Gary Fulton, claimed in court to be the LVF’s current leader.

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