UK CT & COIN Features – 24 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.

Suspected suicide bomber in Exeter, Nicky Reilly, ‘was sent a message of support’
Simon de Bruxelles and Adam Fresco, The Times

A suspected suicide-bomber allegedly received a text message of encouragement as he set off to explode a device believed to be a nail bomb in a restaurant in an Exeter shopping centre.

Nicky Reilly, 22, who has been arrested in connection with the incident, had also come to the attention of MI5 before the alleged attack, security sources confirmed last night.

Armed police investigating the alleged bombing attempt yesterday arrested two men at an open-air café in the centre of Plymouth.

Shoppers and workers in the city, where Mr Reilly lives, were moved away from the area as police surrounded the two men, who were sitting at a table with a child in a pushchair.

[The Times]

Bystanders said that both men, said to be of Mediterranean or Asian appearance, were searched and put into sterile paper suits before being placed in unmarked cars. Police said later that one man was under arrest and the other was helping inquiries.

Also:

Exeter bomb suspect ‘encouraged by text message’ before mission
The Guardian

Neighbours tell of Nicky Reilly’s troubled past
The Telegraph

Comment: violent Islam appeals to social misfits
Andrew Norfolk, The Times

It is the exclusive club that will accept almost anyone as a member. To become a Western foot soldier of jihadist Islam, and in some cases its sacrificial, exploding lamb, requires no one to pass a test of intellect or psychological stability.

Numerous examples of would-be martyrs have illustrated that violent Islamism is a death cult that holds a particularly seductive appeal to the social misfit. The ideology is easy to absorb. It paints the world in black and white. And it offers you a chance to belong. For those born into Muslim families in the West, it is often a sense of dislocation that encourages the first step on a path that can lead to terrorism. Unable to identify with the Islam and cultural practices of their parents, they feel equally alienated from the values of a host country that will, they feel, never fully accept them.

The non-Muslim convert to a militant interpretation of the faith may also have found himself searching in vain for a way to fit into a world where everyone else seems to be at home. Whether Muslim or non-Muslim, such young men — jihadist recruits in the West are usually aged under 35 and male — are often angry and confused, and thus ripe for selection.

Student researching al-Qaida tactics held for six days
Polly Curtis and Martin Hodgson, The Guardian

A masters student researching terrorist tactics who was arrested and detained for six days after his university informed police about al-Qaida-related material he downloaded has spoken of the “psychological torture” he endured in custody.

Despite his Nottingham University supervisors insisting the materials were directly relevant to his research, Rizwaan Sabir, 22, was held for nearly a week under the Terrorism Act, accused of downloading the materials for illegal use. The student had obtained a copy of the al-Qaida training manual from a US government website for his research into terrorist tactics.

The case highlights what lecturers are claiming is a direct assault on academic freedom led by the government which, in its attempt to establish a “prevent agenda” against terrorist activity, is putting pressure on academics to become police informers.

Sabir was arrested on May 14 after the document was found by a university staff member on an administrator’s computer. The administrator, Hisham Yezza, an acquaintance of Sabir, had been asked by the student to print the 1,500-page document because Sabir could not afford the printing fees. The pair were arrested under the Terrorism Act, Sabir’s family home was searched and their computer and mobile phones seized. They were released uncharged six days later but Yezza, who is Algerian, was immediately rearrested on unrelated immigration charges and now faces deportation.

Teacher admits threatening to blow up Bluewater shopping centre
David Batty, The Guardian

A former English teacher today pleaded guilty to threatening to blow up the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent.

Saeed Ghafoor said he was going to bomb Europe’s largest shopping complex using three limousines with gas canister explosives.

But when questioned about his plot, Ghafoor, 33, of Southampton, did not appear to know where the shopping centre was, the Old Bailey heard.

When told it was near the Dartford tunnel in Kent rather than in Exeter as he thought, Ghafoor, who is Muslim, said he had not “finalised” his plans, the court was told.

He pleaded guilty to threatening to cause criminal damage and was remanded in custody for reports before sentencing next month.

Ghafoor made his threat to prison officers at Haverigg jail, in Cumbria, in February. He was serving a 12-month sentence, imposed in January, for threats to kill his sister and assault.

Key US adviser Philip Bobbitt: ‘We must rewrite war on terror’
Giles Whittell, The Times

Terror, Professor Bobbitt argues, thrives in precisely the same conditions as consent – namely the blurred national boundaries, globalised economies and internet-linked societies of the early 21st century.

To prevail, therefore, the West’s states of consent need to focus less on specific sources of terror than on their own vulnerabilities. It isn’t doing this yet. As a result, “the developments that empower terror are gaining . . . at a faster pace than our defences . . . are adapting”. We have time to adapt, he says. But how much?

….

[Bobbitt’s new book, Terror and Consent] lists 22 “widely held” ideas about 21st century terrorism that he says are wrong and must be thoroughly rethought. These include: the notion of the War on Terror as a clash of the medieval and the modern (al-Qaeda is by no means the only adversary, he says, and anyway its methods and vision of a new global Caliphate are “actually quite contemporary”); the idea that intelligence is the key to defeating global terror networks (it is “necessary but not sufficient”, he says, “because intelligence does not provide decisions”); and the view that wars against terrorism have nothing to do with “such state-centric activities as ethnic cleansing and genocide” (states outsource terrorism to groups such as Hezbollah, he notes, and can all too easily become agents of terrorism).

….

“When our governments engage in torture or degrading behaviour,” he writes, “they substantiate the charges made against them by those who say ours are the true rogue states, and that the state terror of the US is as much a threat to mankind as the terrorism of al-Qaeda”.

He would outlaw torture, then – but would still condone it in a “ticking bomb” scenario in which a torturer could prove to have saved lives by inflicting deliberate harm on a terrorist with vital, time-sensitive information.

How could a legal system cope with such complexity? At trial. With the right laws, juries would not just acquit justified torturers, “they would raise them to the peerage,” Professor Bobbitt says with absolute conviction. “These people would be heroes.”

Helicopters ‘may have caused mine explosions’
The Telegraph

An inquest into the death of a Paratrooper, killed while trying to rescue a wounded comrade from a minefield, will investigate if helicopter downdraught detonated the explosives.

Cpl Mark Wright was posthumously awarded the George Cross for his courageous efforts to save his men.

Seven soldiers were injured, including three who lost limbs, after they found themselves in an old Soviet minefield in the Kajaki region Afghanistan on September 6, 2006. When the first man was injured by a mine blast, Cpl Wright of the 3rd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, tried to arrange his rescue.

While his men were trying to prepare a helicopter landing pad, members of the patrol also stepped on mines. Cpl Wright, 27, was killed by a mine and died in a helicopter as it attempted to take him to safety.

An introduction to the Copenhagen Consensus 2008: terrorism versus disease
Mark Henderson, The Times

Imagine that you are Bill Gates. Not to daydream about what to buy with a $58 billion fortune, but to consider how, like the Microsoft entrepreneur, you might give much of it away.

There are dozens of global challenges that could benefit from your philanthropy, but large as your financial resources are, they are not limitless. What would be your priorities? This week The Times is asking readers for their answers — while the Copenhagen Consensus project invites eminent economists to do the same.

….

Over the coming days, they will hear presentations from 30 specialists in particular global problems, each of whom will make the case for a menu of solutions in their fields.

Ten topics have been chosen for debate: terrorism; conflict; malnutrition and hunger; education; the role of women; air pollution; subsidies and trade barriers; disease; sanitation and water; and global warming. The panel will decide on a league table, to guide investments by philanthropists, charities and governments. The exercise is the brainchild of Bjørn Lomborg, the controversial Danish statistician whose 2001 book The Skeptical Environmentalist upset many scientists and green activists with a revisionist view of ecological issues.

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3 Responses to “UK CT & COIN Features – 24 May 2008”

  1. mikewhills Says:

    It seems Professor Bobbitt wasn’t overly happy with how his views were represented in The Times at the weekend. He’s written this response:

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article4003521.ece

  2. Philip Bobbitt Says:

    The headline–“Philip Bobbitt argues the case for torture”—is erroneous and has been withdrawn by the Times, see http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article4003521.ece

  3. Will Says:

    I have updated the story link above with the replacement headline now being used by the Times.

    NB: Readers in London may be interested to know that IISS are having a book launch for Professor Bobbitt’s new book on Thursday 5 June (18:00hrs at Arundel House):

    Terror and Consent argues that we are fighting the wars against terror with weapons and concepts which though useful to us in previous conflicts have now been superseded. Philip Bobbitt argues that we need to reforge the links between law and strategy; to realize how the evolution of modern states, which have always produced terrorists in their own image, has now produced a globally networked terrorism; to combine humanitarian interests with strategies of intervention; and above all to rethink what ‘victory’ in such a war, if it is a war, might look like – no occupied capitals, no treaties, no victory parades, but the preservation, protection and defence of human rights and of states of consent. It is central to his argument that we are fighting terror and not just terrorists.

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