UK CT & COIN Features – 17 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.

RAF Hercules was bombed, MoD report reveals
The Times

The Ministry of Defence covered up the full truth about the destruction of an RAF Hercules aircraft by Iraqi insurgents to stop the enemy claiming a high-profile propaganda victory, a new report discloses.

The C-130J transport aircraft was struck by two bombs planted by militants as it landed on a temporary runway in Maysan Province in south-eastern Iraq on February 12 last year.

All 64 people on board escaped to safety but the Hercules was so badly damaged it had to be destroyed by coalition explosives experts.

At the time the MoD said the aircraft had been involved in an “incident on landing”, telling some journalists there were no immediate signs of enemy action.

But a formal Board of Inquiry report, published on the MoD’s website, makes it clear that planted improvised explosive devices were suspected within an hour of the blasts.

The report praises senior defence officials’ “sound and well-reasoned approach” to releasing information about the incident.

It notes that this resulted in “minimal media interest” and “denied the enemy the opportunity to exploit the situation for the benefit of their IO (information operations) campaign”.

Nottingham ‘student’ detained under Terrorism Act
Anthea Lipsett, The Guardian

Two men aged 22 and 30 have been arrested on the University of Nottingham’s campus under the Terrorism Act, police confirmed today.

Police have been searching premises at the university and properties in Nottingham since the men, believed to be a student at Nottingham and a former student, were arrested on Wednesday morning during a low-key operation between police and the Midlands counter terrorist unit.

The arrests are understood to relate to alleged radical material.

Terrorism on campus is an ongoing government concern. The higher education minister, Bill Rammell, issued revised guidelines for universities earlier this year after outrage at the government’s original guidelines asking academics to “spy” on suspect students.

Two arrested over car bomb attack
BBC

A man and woman have been arrested in relation to the attempted murder of an off-duty policeman near Castlederg in County Tyrone.

….

Four men arrested at different locations in County Tyrone on Thursday morning, are still being held.

BBC

The officer sustained leg injuries after a booby-trap bomb exploded in his car in Spamount on Monday. Dissident republicans have been blamed for the attack.

Afghan aeroplane hijacker is working at British Airways training centre
Nick Allen and Graham Tibbetts, The Telegraph

Ministers have been accused of losing control of airport security after it emerged that an Afghan man who hijacked a plane eight years ago has been working at a British Airways training centre near Heathrow.

Nazamuddin Mohammidy, 34, was one of nine hijackers who threatened to blow up an internal flight in Afghanistan and forced it to fly to Stansted Airport in Essex. The gang surrendered to police and the SAS after a 70-hour stand-off.

Mr Mohammidy was jailed for 30 months for his part in the hijacking but he and the rest of the gang later had their convictions quashed by the Court of Appeal. The hijackers claimed they were fleeing “medieval and brutal tyranny” under the Taliban and went on to win a High Court ruling preventing them from being deported.

It emerged yesterday that Mr Mohammidy has been employed as an office cleaner for a company with a contract for a BA training centre a mile from Heathrow’s Terminal 4.

Plea to free ‘forgotten’ British hostages
Sean O’Neill and Deborah Haynes, The Times

The former Archbishop of Canterbury has broken a year-long government news blackout to appeal directly to the group holding five “forgotten” British hostages who were abducted in Baghdad last May.

Lord Carey of Clifton released a video statement through The Times in which he greeted the hostage-takers as “honourable men” and “men of faith”.

His words were addressed, over the heads of British diplomats and Iraqi government officials, to the kidnappers.

“You believe, as I do, that faith is important in this broken world,” Lord Carey said. “I appeal to you, as good people, to release these men who long to be back home once more.”

Real spies grow harder to find
Christopher Caldwell, The Financial Times

New details emerged this week of how Syria managed to conceal the secret nuclear plant it was building with North Korean help, and how close to producing plutonium it was before it was destroyed by an Israeli air strike last autumn. But that was not the only big news from the world of espionage. It was also revealed that the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act – a UK law dating from 2000 that authorises signals interception for anti-terrorist and other purposes – had been used more than a dozen times by local council officials in Poole, Dorset, to investigate illegal shellfish dredging, sales of alcohol to minors, and whether out-of-boundary parents were trying to sneak their children into the local school system.

Spying is, depending on how you look at it, either a traditional endeavour in which technological advances have raised the stakes to apocalyptic levels; or it is a joke, an irrelevance, an anachronism that is now engaged in only by busybodies and compulsive violators of others’ liberties. Certainly it has grown harder in recent years to base the case for spying on the effectiveness of western intelligence agencies. The US CIA gathered too little knowledge about al-Qaeda in the years before September 11 2001 and too little about Iraq in the years after. CIA employees have fought one another over bureaucratic turf. They have blundered through minor scandals involving minor security lapses (such as former director John Deutch’s loading his laptop with classified information) and major ones (such as the mole Aldrich Ames).

PM denies rethink on terror detention
Jim Pickard, The Financial Times

Gordon Brown has vowed to hold his nerve over the extension of pre-charge detention for terror suspects to 42 days, despite facing a possible Commons defeat over the issue.

The prime minister dismissed talk that he was preparing to compromise over the contentious counter-terrorism bill – which extends detention from 28 days – to win over some rebels.

“There can be no question of any compromises,” said Number 10. “We have put forward what the government believes is a sensible and balanced package.”

The crucial vote on the measure, which has been opposed by human rights groups and senior lawyers – including Lord Goldsmith, former attorney-general – is expected in mid-June.

Rebel MPs try to block 42-day detention plans
Rosalind Ryan, The Guardian

Rebel Labour MPs today tabled an amendment to the counter-terrorism bill that could block Gordon Brown’s attempts to extend the detention without charge limit to 42 days.

The amendment seeks to scrap the 42-day limit and replace it with a “comprehensive package of alternatives”, including holding suspects on police bail while they are under investigation.

The move comes as the prime minister seeks to broker a deal with party dissidents to avoid a damaging split over the proposed detention limit.

The new amendment has been tabled by Andrew Dismore, the chairman of the parliamentary joint human rights committee.

He said: “If you use bail, subject to certain conditions, you can stop someone’s use of the internet, you can stop them using a mobile phone, you can control when they go out and where they go out. You can effectively close them down.”

More:

Q&A: 42-day detention – The Guardian

Rebels table amendment to block 42-day detention plansThe Guardian

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