UK CT & COIN Features – 2 July 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.

Hizbollah banned over ‘Iraq terrorism’
PA / The Independent

Prime Minister Gordon Brown today said Hizbollah’s military wing has been added to the list of banned terrorist organisations because of new evidence linking it to activities in Iraq and the occupied Palestinian territories.

At Commons question time he said the proscription would not extend to the political and social activities of the Lebanese party.

“We continue to call on Hizbollah to end its status as an armed group and to participate in the Lebanese democratic process and to do so on the same terms as other political parties,” he told MPs.

Labour’s Gordon Banks (Ochil and S Perthshire) asked Mr Brown what more he could do to “make sure extremism does not derail” the Middle East peace process.

Mr Brown said: “We have today laid an order extending proscription to cover Hizbollah’s entire military wing on the sole grounds of new evidence of its involvement in terrorism in Iraq and in the occupied Palestinian territories.

“Proscription will not effect Hizbollah’s legitimate political and social wings.”

Also:

UK ban on Hezbollah military arm
BBC

Afghanistan: ‘It was a battlefield last time I was here. The progress is remarkable’
Magnus Linklater, The Times

The Mastiff armoured car lumbered its way down the dusty main street of Garmsir’s newly opened market, past broken, mud-brick shops, and the impassive stare of watching Afghans.

With the rear door manned by a soldier of 5 Scots battalion armed with an SA80 rifle, and “top cover” provided by a wary machine-gunner, we were well-protected. But the Chief of the Defence Staff wanted a closer look at his newly secured territory. Standing up, he poked his head through the manhole on the roof of the vehicle and surveyed the passing scene.

“Want to have a look?” asked Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup. I stood up gingerly, my blue helmet a worryingly obvious target, I thought, for any passing Taleban. The roof of the Mastiff was too hot to touch, in the 50C (122F) temperature, but the experience was exhilarating.

We lurched over potholes. The dust swirled. And, through it, we studied the passing scene, attempting to gauge the mood of a liberated people. Some of the shops, battered by the armaments of past battles, stood open to the sky, others were boarded up. But there was a scattering of local traders who watched impassively as we passed. Two men, stripped to the waist, washed themselves in a cattle trough. A turbaned draper set out his goods. Then a little boy waved at us. Just one – but it delighted Sir Jock. “Oh yes, he definitely waved,” he said. On such uncertain straws of evidence are the achievements of the Helmand task force judged in these testing days of the West’s Afghan venture. They are, however, straws worth studying.

Muslims in the military
Gordon Corera, BBC

A country house in Hampshire was the rarefied setting for the second conference hosting Muslims serving in Britain’s armed forces.

Those who gathered at Amport House – the home to military chaplains from all faiths – came for a mix of practical advice and spiritual support, talking of how the military had done much to accommodate them but arguing that there was more to be done, including in the field of recruitment.

Close to 400 Muslims serve in the military – about 300 in the Army, 50 in the RAF and 40 in the Navy.

Many come from the Commonwealth as well as from Britain’s established Muslim communities – Gambia and Ghana were well represented.

The Navy and RAF have a sprinkling of high-ranking officers, including group captains and rear admirals, but the Army appears to have somewhat fewer role models for young Muslims joining up.

Building goodwill in Gereshk – Part One
Barry Shaw, MoD

UK-led Operational Mentoring and Liaison Teams (OMLT) deployed across Helmand province have been growing in influence and capability in the past twelve months. The concept of the OMLT is a simple one; to help and advise the Afghan police and army on tactics and patrolling methods so that in time they can take over responsibility for security across the region.

The OMLTs (referred to by some in the military as omelettes!) are integrated into ANA company-sized units in Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) and Patrol Bases (PBs) throughout the whole of Helmand province.

….

A typical day for the personnel in the OMLT will involve going out early on patrol in and around Gereshk, usually these will be joint patrols with the local police and army. Then they head back to their patrol bases where they debrief and then prepare for their next patrol. After each patrol there will always be a discussion how the patrol went, what they might do on future patrols and operations; lots of information and intelligence is shared and exchanged.

Detectives arrest man over Ulster pub killings
David McKittrick, The Independent

Detectives investigating one of Northern Ireland’s most infamous multiple murders are questioning a 45-year-old man arrested in Kent.

He is being held in connection with an attack on a quiet Catholic pub in County Down in June 1994 in which six men were shot dead as they watched a World Cup football match. Those killed included Barney Green, who at the age of 87 was one of the oldest victims of the conflict in Northern Ireland.

The man was arrested in Maidstone on Saturday by detectives from Belfast working with Kent police. He was flown to Belfast on Sunday, where an extension has been granted to the initial three-day questioning period. Under Northern Ireland regulations he must be charged or released this week.

The attack on the Catholic-owned bar in the village of Loughinisland seemed to have been carried out on a purely sectarian basis. The victims had been watching the Republic of Ireland playing Italy.

Two gunmen belonging to the illegal Ulster Volunteer Force walked into the bar and opened fire with assault rifles on customers, who had been sitting with their backs to the door. About two dozen people were in the bar and lounge and several were seriously injured.

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