A round-up of today’s newspaper articles covering the UK’s involvement in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations at home and abroad.
Britain is focal point for terrorism, warns Europe’s police force
Brian Brady, The Independent
Britain is the focal point for Islamic terrorism across Europe, and its controversial military campaigns overseas are putting the entire continent at risk, a disturbing new report has warned.
An analysis of the terrorist threat by Europol, the European Police Office, has concluded that the dangers posed by militant groups rose to unprecedented proportions in 2007, with steep increases in the number of arrests, plots and attacks.
But Islamic terrorism, particularly through a rejuvenated al-Qa’ida, was highlighted as the most significant security threat to the authorities in the UK. At least one person is arrested every day across Europe under suspicion of involvement in Islamic terror conspiracies or attacks. Europol warned that the UK was recognised as fertile ground for radical Islamists seeking recruits to their jihadist campaigns, with “young, radicalised British citizens” often used to mount attacks.
The bleak warning came as the Government prepared for a battle over its plans to allow the police to detain terror suspects for up to six weeks without charge.
[IRG: For a link to the Europol report, see this earlier IRG post covering the release of the report]
Gordon Brown on collision course with George W Bush over Iraq cluster bombs
Tim Shipman, The Telegraph
British soldiers fighting alongside American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq would face criminal prosecution if the government goes ahead with plans to sign a treaty limiting the use of cluster bombs, senior US diplomats have warned.
Gordon Brown’s government is on another collision course with the Bush administration because American officials are concerned that the UK may trade expose British troops to possible legal action, to placate critics of cluster bombs. Mr Brown has already irritated the White House by keeping his distance diplomatically and reducing British troop numbers in Iraq.
Representatives from 122 nations, including Britain will meet in Dublin tomorrow to finalise the terms of a deal that would outlaw the use of most cluster munitions.
Bobby Sands still has the power to stir controversy 27 years after his death
David McKittrick, The Independent
Bobby Sands, the subject of the controversial new film Hunger, shown at Cannes, is hardly a hero to everyone in Ireland, but to republicans he is a potent symbol of self-sacrifice.
While republican factions continue to debate whether he would have supported the present peace process, they are united in regarding him as a martyr who died an agonising death for their cause after a 66-day hunger strike.
The film, the debut feature by the Turner prize-winning artist Steve McQueen, pulls no punches in its portrayal of the bitter dispute between prisoners at the notorious Maze prison in Northern Ireland and the Government.
It details the last six weeks of Sands’s life. He died aged 27 in 1981 during IRA protests over the political status of prisoners. Michael Fassbender, who plays Sands, starved himself for two months in preparation for the role. With little dialogue, vivid images of prisoners being beaten and one 22-minute shot, the film is both controversial and innovative.
At last, an apology from foolish policemen
Nick Cohen, The Guardian
Those who think that England is a politically correct tyranny where bigots face interrogation by the cops for daring to speak their minds should look at what happened to Channel 4 when it tried to expose the bigotries of well-funded, Saudi-backed clerics working in Britain.
Its undercover journalists infiltrated radical mosques. They recorded assorted preachers calling for the subjugation of women, the murder of homosexuals and Jews, the replacement of the ‘man-made’ laws of a democracy with the religious edicts of a theocratic state and the eternal damnation of Muslims who did not follow Wahhabi doctrine and infidels who did not accept the true faith.
Channel 4 showed its balanced and impeccably sourced documentary last year and the forces of law and order cracked down: not on demagogic preachers, but on the broadcasters who exposed them. Assistant Chief Constable Anil Patani from the West Midlands police and Bethan David of the Crown Prosecution Service accused Channel 4 ‘of the splicing together of extracts from longer speeches’. The docu-fakers appeared ‘to have completely distorted what the speakers were saying’. They referred journalists to Ofcom, an extraordinary measure for police and prosecutors to take, given that their job is to charge criminals, not moonlight as television critics.
Since 9/11, not only police officers, but New Labour ministers, the Home Office, Foreign Office and pseudo-left journalists and councils have sought to promote ‘cohesion’ by appeasing Islamist groups which aren’t quite as extreme as al-Qaeda. They have turned them into the sole authentic representatives of British Islam, although as Haras Rafiq and Abdal-Hakim Murad show, they are nothing of the sort, and branded serious investigation into obscurantist politics as religious prejudice.
Elements within the government thought that if they could co-opt the Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaat-i-Islami and ignore their foul beliefs, they would isolate the terrorists to their right. Even Labour now admits that the policy has been a practical failure and moral shambles. Elsewhere, however, a mushy multicultural feeling persists that it is somehow ‘insensitive’ to apply universal values.