UK CT & COIN Features – 17 June 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.


Abu Qatada: Radical cleric to be released ‘in next 24 hours’
Duncan Gardham, The Telegraph

Radical cleric Abu Qatada, described as “Osama bin Laden’s right hand man in Europe,” is to be released in the next 24 hours.

Qatada, who is accused of giving advice and support to terrorists including the leader of the September 11 hijackers, has been described in official documents as a “truly dangerous individual” who was “heavily involved, indeed at the centre of terrorist activities associated with al-Qa’eda.”

The Telegraph

He has been convicted twice in Jordan in his absence for conspiracy to carry out bomb attacks on two hotels in Amman in 1998, and providing finance and advice for a series of bomb attacks in Jordan planned to coincide with the Millennium.

It was those convictions which allowed him to argue in the Appeal Court he would not get a fair treatment in his home country. With the prospect of extradition removed, the Ministry of Justice has been forced to release him by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission.

Also:

Abu Qatada profile: ‘Osama bin Laden’s ambassador man in Europe’
Duncan Gardham, The Telegraph

Abu Qatada to be released on bail
David Barrett, PA / The Independent

‘Bin Laden lieutenant’ Abu Qatada to be freed on bail within hours
The Times

Abu Qatada: Radical preacher freed on bail
Allegra Stratton, The Guardian

Man arrested in terror probe
PA / The Independent

A 19-year-old man has been arrested under the Terrorism Act in Bristol, police have said. The man, who lives in Easton, was detained following further investigations in connection with 19-year-old Andrew Ibrahim, who was arrested in April under the Terrorism act. Ibrahim, from Comb Paddock, Westbury-on-Trym, has since appeared in court accused of plotting to commit acts of terrorism.

Officers are conducting a forensic search of the man’s address in Belle Vue Road, Easton. A second property, in nearby Mivart Street, was also being searched on Monday. A police spokesman said: “There is no need for any neighbouring homes to be evacuated and no suggestion of any danger to members of the public.” He added: “Because of today’s arrest and the ongoing legal proceedings involving Mr Ibrahim, police are unable to discuss further details of this matter at this time.”

‘Lyrical Terrorist’ Samina Malik cleared on appeal
Duncan Gardham, The Telegraph

A Heathrow shop assistant who dubbed herself the “Lyrical Terrorist” has won her appeal against conviction.

Samina Malik, who worked air-side for WH Smith and was the first Muslim woman in Britain found guilty of terrorism offences, posted a series of poems on websites across the internet about killing non-believers, pursuing martyrdom and raising children to be holy fighters.

The Telegraph

She was described as a “committed Islamic extremist who supports terrorism and terrorists” and had a library of material for that purpose.

….

Miss Malik, 24, was given a nine-month jail sentence suspended for 18 months at the Old Bailey last December, for possessing information useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism under Section 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

But today judges at the Court of Appeal said they believed the jury had become “confused”. The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Phillips, sitting with Mr Justice Goldring and Mr Justice Plender, quashed the conviction after the prosecution conceded that it was unsafe.

Also:

Lyrical terrorist Samina Malik has her conviction overturned
Sean O’Neill, The Times

‘Lyrical terrorist’ wins appeal
Jan Colley, PA / The Independent

UK quashes ‘lyrical terrorist’ conviction
Megan Murphy, The Financial Times

‘Lyrical terrorist’ has conviction quashed
Lee Glendinning, The Guardian

These troops are too few – and much, much too late
Jason Burke, The Guardian

So we are sending more troops to Afghanistan. Yesterday, the British government announced a major new deployment. Another 230 soldiers will be heading east. Yes, a whole 230. This is apparently worthy of a speech by the defence secretary to parliament. The Taliban must be laughing into their beards.

Last week 1,200 inmates broke out of the main jail in Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second biggest city. During the operation, which lasted several hours, the militants in effect held half the town. The Afghan national army, the local forces on whom the international coalition is pinning its hopes of an early exit from the country, took hours to respond. In part, it is this failure to build efficient and stable government institutions – an army, a police force, a civil administration and a judicial system – that has provoked the latest deployment.

Of course, as senior Nato officials point out, it is true that numbers are not the only metric in the struggle that has gripped Afghanistan for the past seven years. “We don’t need more troops,” one official told me this spring. “We need the right troops in the right place.”

The new soldiers – a fifth of the number of the Kandahar escapees – should be just that. They are specialists in disciplines such as engineering and training who can help build up Afghanistan’s civil infrastructure and train its army and police forces. Progress in these areas has been virtually non-existent in the badlands of the southeast, where civilian organisations, governmental or otherwise, cannot operate. Perhaps there will now be some.

But it is desperately late. British senior military commanders long ago complained that civilians were unable to deliver the kind of development assistance – or even hearts and minds-winning instant aid projects – that were necessary. In Helmand in 2006, the senior commanding officer of the British deployment told me that his biggest frustration was that his troops could not, due to British government guidelines, offer aid to villagers.

Brown and Bush show solidarity over Iraq
Stephen Fidler and Alex Barker, The Financial Times

Gordon Brown and George W. Bush presented a united front and played down tensions over Iraq strategy on Monday as the US president completed his final official visit to London.

Dismissing speculation that the US was uncomfortable with Britain’s plans for its troops in Basra, Mr Bush heaped on the praise, welcoming Mr Brown’s decision to send more troops to Afghanistan and step up pressure on Iran.

Britain will boost troop numbers in Afghanistan by 200 to more than 8,000 in coming months, the government announced on Monday. Officials also made clear that the number of British soldiers in Iraq was not expected to fall below the current level of 4,000 until next year at the earliest – after Mr Bush has left office.

This suggests there will be no easing of pressure on Britain’s heavily stretched army until at least 2009. However, government insiders say that a relatively rapid drawdown, beginning in March 2009, could be announced by the end of this year, if conditions permit.

Also:

Iraq to dominate Bush and Brown dialogue
Jean Eaglesham, The Financial Times

Looking for Long-Term Stabilisation in Afghanistan
Michael Clarke, RUSI

The United Kingdom announces an increase in troop numbers – the highest level so far – only days after Britain mourned its hundredth combat death in Afghanistan. But the sacrifice and the rise in troop levels should not distract us from the military successes in that country and the focus required by the international community to reap a positive legacy.

The sad milestone last week of the hundredth British death in Afghanistan, and then two more also among the Parachute Regiment, sparked a wave of soul-searching about the purposes and prospects of Britain’s operations in that country. Today, five bodies are flown back to the UK from Afghanistan as the Government announces that more troops will be deployed in the next year, taking the total to more than 8,000. The questions are persistent. Are our troops there for a good enough reason? Are they winning? How will we know when we’ve done enough? Such questions are difficult enough to answer in most military conflicts, but in the circumstances of Afghanistan, they are particularly contentious; deliberative rather than inquisitive questions. And when questions are deliberative, the answers are almost always political.

Tougher terror laws and ID cards actually enhance freedoms, claims Gordon Brown
James Kirkup, The Telegraph

Gordon Brown has claimed his plans for new terror laws and national identity cards will actually enhance basic human freedoms.

The Prime Minister used a speech in London to defend his Government’s record on civil liberties in the light of last week’s Labour rebellion over the detention of terror suspects and the high-profile challenge being mounted by David Davis, the former Tory front bencher.

….

“The challenge is how to match a change in our laws with stronger safeguards, so we protect both the civil liberties of the individual and the security needs of all individuals,” the Prime Minister said.

Pointing to changes in technology, travel and communication systems, Mr Brown suggested that notions of liberty and security must be updated.

He said: “New challenges require new means of addressing them. But at all times the enduring responsibility remains the same – both protecting the security of all and safeguarding the individual’s right to be free.”

Brown v Davis on terrorism policy
Andrew Sparrow, The Guardian

When David Davis announced his resignation last week, he said he wanted to trigger a national debate about liberty. Today he got one.

And not just any old debate. The prime minister devoted an entire 11-page speech to the subject when he addressed the Institute for Public Policy Research security commission.

Gordon Brown did not mention David Davis by name. But his speech reads like a point-by-point rebuttal of many of the things Davis has been saying since he announced last week that he wanted to fight a byelection in Haltemprice and Howden on a platform of opposition to Labour’s anti-libertarian policies.

Also:

David Davis is still right
Henry Porter, The Guardian

MI6 warns of terror attack on Dubai
Duncan Gardham, The Telegraph

Intelligence gathered by MI6 suggests an attack on the holiday destination of Dubai could be imminent.

The intelligence was analysed by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre in London before a decision was taken by the Foreign Office to warn of the threat.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has raised the level of threat faced by the United Arab Emirates from “general” to “high,” warning travelers: “attacks could be indiscriminate and could happen at any time, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travelers such as residential compounds, military, oil, transport and aviation interests.

“You should maintain a high level of security awareness, particularly in public places.”

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