UK CT & COIN Features – 19 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.

Explosion kills UK soldier in Afghanistan
Allegra Stratton, The Guardian

A British soldier died in an explosion in southern Afghanistan today, bringing to 96 the number of UK personnel killed in the country since the 2001 invasion.

The soldier was on foot patrol in Musa Qaleh in Helmand province at the time. An MoD spokesman said no one else was hurt.

Anti-terror unit loses surveillance powers to deflect Stockwell criticism
Sean O’Neill, The Times

Scotland Yard’s anti-terror unit has been stripped of its control over covert surveillance teams in an attempt to ward off further criticism over the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, The Times has learnt.

Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, ordered the overhaul of undercover policing, despite stiff opposition from inside the force. Senior sources are concerned that the loss of dedicated counter-terrorism surveillance units, which can be deployed anywhere in the country, might undermine future security operations.

The force was criticised heavily for the failure of its surveillance teams to identify Mr de Menezes, 27, as a civilian on July 22, 2005. Firearms officers shot him dead at Stockwell Tube station, South London, in the belief that he was a suicide bomber.

Police face scrutiny over the arrest of radical jihadist who renounced violence
Andrew Norfolk, The Times

He was the poster boy for jihadist extremism who become one of its most vocal opponents, meeting a government minister and being offered Home Office funding to support his deradicalisation work among young Muslims.

But now Hassan Butt is under arrest and at the centre of a high-stakes legal battle that goes to the core of Britain’s fight against terrorism.

Hassan Butt sent dozens of British Muslims to training camps in Pakistan, raised money for the Taleban and once boasted of his desire “to kill or be killed for the sake of Allah”. His words and deeds in support of Islamist terrorism were reported widely between 2001 and 2004, yet he was never charged with any offence.

After the suicide attacks on London in July 2005, he embarked on a lengthy and painful reexamination of his beliefs, eventually repudiating violence and emerging as a passionate critic of the cause he once espoused. Since early 2007 Mr Butt, 28, has denounced al-Qaeda in numerous newspaper articles, in international television interviews and in debate at the Cambridge Union.

However, he has been labelled a traitor to Islam by his former comrades and in April last year was stabbed in the street by two assailants.

Ten days ago, as he prepared to board a flight to Pakistan, Mr Butt was arrested – and is still detained – under the Terrorism Act.

[IRG: For an earlier IRG post on Hassan Butt, click here]

Homes evacuated in security alert
BBC

A number of families had to leave their homes in Omagh on Sunday evening in a security alert.

Two suspicious objects were found on the Dublin Road in the County Tyrone town at about 1700 BST on Sunday.

A large area outside the town was cordoned off and people living in 10 or 11 houses were asked to leave.

Army officers carried out two controlled explosions at the scene. It was later declared safe. Police would not give detail about what was found.

Two held over car bomb released
BBC

A man and a woman arrested in relation to the attempted murder of an off-duty policeman in County Tyrone have been released pending further inquiries.

The pair were arrested on Friday night over the attack near Castlederg.

BBC

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

Britain ‘is barrier to cluster bomb ban treaty’
Tom Peterkin, The Telegraph

Britain has been accused of being the main barrier to an international treaty that would ban cluster bombs, weapons responsible for the deaths of thousands of civilians.

Humanitarian groups, countries that have borne the brunt of the bombs and former soldiers gathered on Monday to forge a treaty outlawing cluster bombs.

Representatives of more than 100 countries were in Dublin for a conference looking at the artillery-fired M85 and the rocket-based M73 munitions.

The Telegraph

British officials have argued that they are “smart” weapons, which minimise the risk of collateral damage.

But Simon Conway, a former soldier and the Director of Landmine Action, said: “Every time these weapons are used, they have killed large numbers of civilians.”

More:

Martin Bell: The UK has no ethical foreign policy if it battles to keep these munitions
The Independent

British military ex-commanders call for action to ban cluster bombs
The Times

Commentary: a deep embarrassment to security services
Michael Evans, The Times

At a time when MI5 is having to counter the threat posed to this country from an estimated 2,000 home-grown terrorist suspects, the Max Mosley affair is both deeply embarrassing and an unwelcome diversion.

Although it would take only the most devoted conspiracy enthusiast to imagine that the Security Service, with only 3,500 staff members at its disposal, would want to dedicate intelligence officers to set up the head of Formula 1 motor racing, the involvement of the wife of an MI5 officer in the sado-masochistic orgy that brought about his downfall has raised serious questions about the organisation’s vetting system.

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