A round-up of today’s newspaper articles covering the UK’s involvement in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations at home and abroad.
Counter-terror squad sent to Exeter after explosion
Vikram Dodd and Matthew Weaver, The Guardian
Police are investigating whether an explosion in a restaurant in Exeter today was an act of terrorism.
The blast was reported just before 1pm at the Giraffe restaurant at the Princesshay shopping centre.
Eyewitnesses said they believed it had come from the toilets and that they saw nails after the explosion.
One man with slight injuries has been arrested. It is understood he is suffering from lacerations to an eye and facial burning.
Officers from Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism command were dispatched to the scene this afternoon. The decision was made at the request of Devon and Cornwall police. The terrorism specialists include forensics experts who can identify what caused the explosion.
Nothing has so far emerged to link the explosion to international or al-Qaida inspired terrorism.
Police investigated reports of three other devices in Exeter city centre following calls from members of the public but said no further device had been found.
A man accused of helping the 7 July 2005 suicide bombers has told a court that he had been prepared to fight British troops in Afghanistan.
Waheed Ali, 25, of Leeds, said he saw it as his religious duty to liberate a Muslim land – but that was not the same as “putting on a rucksack in London”.
During cross-examination, he said he was not stupid enough to be part of the plot and then remain in the UK.
Mr Ali and two others deny scouting for targets in London during December 2004.
Starting his third day in the witness box at Kingston Crown Court, Mr Ali told prosecutor Neil Flewitt QC that he stood by his beliefs that Muslims were under an obligation to liberate any occupied Islamic land.
The solicitor for the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing has described as “preposterous” a suggestion that part of his appeal could be held in private.
It follows national newspaper claims the appeal court was to be asked to appoint security-cleared lawyers to represent Abdelbasset Ali al-Megrahi.
His lawyer said the move was against his right to a fair hearing.
The UK Advocate General said it would be up to the court to decide if any future hearings were in private.
Met chief role in terror fight ‘inappropriate’
Jimmy Burns and Andrew Taylor, The Financial Times
Ministers and senior civil servants are politicising the role of police chiefs over Gordon Brown’s plans to allow terror suspects to be detained without charge for up to 42 days, opposition MPs claimed on Wednesday night.
The latest row over the prime minister’s counter-terrorist strategy came after it emerged that Sir David Normington, the Home Office’s most senior civil servant, had invited Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police chief, to send one of his senior officers to brief MPs in support of the legislation.
David Davis, the shadow home secretary, described the invitation as “entirely inappropriate”, while Chris Huhne, his Liberal Democrat counterpart, accused ministers of trying to circumvent parliamentary committees, which have been critical of the government’s plans.
“Serving officers should not be asked to make the government’s case – particularly when it doesn’t reflect the common view of chief constables,” Mr Davis said.
Reformed jihadist released as court case begins
Andrew Norfolk, The Times
A former jihadist recruiter who now seeks to deradicalise young Muslims was released without charge yesterday after being held for 12 days under the Terrorism Act.
Hassan Butt, 28, who has been offered Home Office funding to support his work, was arrested by officers from Greater Manchester Police (GMP) on May 9 as he prepared to board a flight to Pakistan. His release came as lawyers for the police appeared at the High Court to defend an attempt to force journalists to hand over materials relating to Mr Butt.
Shiv Malik, a freelance journalist who has helped the former extremist to write his autobiography, is challenging a production order obtained by the GMP against him. It requires him to give the police all his notes and source material for the book and all information in his possession concerning Mr Butt’s past activities.
The force is seeking similar production orders against the BBC, the American TV network CBS, the Sunday Times and Prospect magazine.
Mr Butt has made no secret of his past involvement in Islamist radicalism. He sent dozens of young British Muslims to training camps in Pakistan and raised large sums of money for the Taleban.
Mr Butt says he began to reassess his theological beliefs after the July 2005 suicide attacks on London, eventually repudiating violence and realising that “killing in the name of Islam, for the sake of killing, is completely and utterly prohibited”. He has since taken a public stance urging Muslims to confront the ideology that lures young people into Islamic militancy.
Shiv Malik case: Terror notes demanded despite press freedom fears
Caitlin Fitzsimmons, The Guardian
Shiv Malik should hand over his notes connected to the police investigation of a terror suspect even if it had a chilling effect on journalism, the high court heard today.
Andrew Edis, QC, counsel for Greater Manchester police, told the high court in London that the force was not asking freelance journalist Shiv Malik to reveal confidential sources but wanted material on Hassan Butt.
Butt was arrested as a terror suspect on May 9 but was released without charge yesterday.
Edis was speaking at a judicial review by a panel of three judges of a production order served on Malik, 27, by Greater Manchester police to hand over material, including notes and tape recordings, connected to his forthcoming book Leaving al-Qaida.
Malik’s book, to be published by Constable and Robinson, is about how people become terrorists and those who ultimately turn their back on it.
The high court has been told that Greater Manchester police has seen a manuscript of the book, but also wants to look at all Malik’s source material relevant to Butt.
Edis told the court today that Butt made claims about his terrorist activity in Malik’s book including saying he was involved in the June 2002 bombing of the US Consulate in Karachi.
However, Edis said Butt had contradicted these claims when interviewed by police and it was necessary to investigate whether he was lying to Malik or the police.
“[We need to know] whether it’s an Adolf Hitler diaries situation, or whether Mr Butt is telling the truth that he is a terrorist or he was a terrorist,” he added.
Writer in legal fight to protect terror notes
Baha Mousa public inquiry means little
Joshua Rozenberg, The Telegraph
We can have little grounds for confidence in the public inquiry announced last week into the death of Baha Mousa, an Iraqi civilian, in British military custody nearly five years ago.
The 26-year-old hotel receptionist was held at a British military prison in Basra following a counter-insurgency operation. “At the base, he was brutally beaten by British troops,” according to Lord Bingham, the senior law lord.
“This was not a case of misjudgement in the heat of battle,” Gen Sir Richard Dannatt, Chief of the General Staff, admitted last week. “The Army knows that Mr Baha Mousa should have been treated properly and lawfully. But he was not.”
Cpl Donald Payne, of 2 Bn The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, was cleared by a court martial last year of Mr Mousa’s manslaughter. But the soldier admitted inhuman treatment of Iraqi civilians, a war crime, and was jailed for a year.
Because of lack of evidence, all seven defendants at the court martial – including Col Jorge Mendonca, the troops’ CO – were acquitted of all the charges that they had denied.
Meanwhile, a case known as Al-Skeini was working its way up the courts. Relatives of six Iraqis killed by British troops in differing circumstances were challenging the Defence Secretary’s decision not to hold an independent inquiry into their deaths. Of these, Baha Mousa was the only one to have died in military custody.
Northern Ireland’s First Minister in waiting has visited Royal Irish Regiment troops serving in Afghanistan.
Peter Robinson, his DUP colleague Jeffrey Donaldson and the UUP peer Lord Maginnis were among politicians who met soldiers from 1 and 2 Battalions RIR.
They flew into Camp Bastion and were taken to nearby Camp Shorabak, where RIR soldiers are helping to train Afghan government forces.
The troops are part of 16 Air Assault Brigade’s deployment to Afghanistan.
Commenting afterwards Mr Robinson said people should be proud of the work the troops were doing.
“I was deeply impressed by the commitment of these men and women who have demonstrated a willingness to put their lives on the line to help others who have suffered so much oppression under the rule of terror imposed by the Taleban,” he said.