UK CT & COIN Features – 28 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.

A third of Muslim students back killings
Abul Taher, The Times

ALMOST a third of British Muslim students believe killing in the name of Islam can be justified, according to a poll. The study also found that two in five Muslims at university support the incorporation of Islamic sharia codes into British law.

The YouGov poll for the Centre for Social Cohesion (CSC) will raise concerns about the extent of campus radicalism. “Significant numbers appear to hold beliefs which contravene democratic values,” said Han-nah Stuart, one of the report’s authors. “These results are deeply embarrassing for those who have said there is no extremism in British universities.”

The report was criticised by the country’s largest Muslim student body, Fosis, but Anthony Glees, professor of security and intelligence studies at Buckingham University, said: “The finding that a large number of students think it is okay to kill in the name of religion is alarming.

“There is a wide cultural divide between Muslim and nonMuslim students. The solution is to stop talking about celebrating diversity and focus on integration and assimilation.”

The researchers found that 55% of nonMuslim students thought Islam was incompatible with democracy. Nearly one in 10 had “little respect” for Muslims.

Also:

To beat extremism we must dissolve religious groups
Minette Marrin, The Times

Dissident Northern Ireland republican threat ‘higher than from Islamic extremists’
Aislinn Simpson, The Telegraph

Dissident republicans from Northern Ireland are engaged in suspicious activity more than any other radical group in the UK including Islamic extremists, according to security sources.

Some claim that the Northern Irish terror threat is as significant now as it was during the time of the Omagh bombing 10 years ago and that up to 80 hardcore dissidents could be plotting attacks.

Among those they may target are Catholic police officers in a bid to deter young Catholics and nationalists from joined the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), and prison officers, the sources say.

Police Service of Northern Ireland Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde has also confirmed the risk, saying that the threat from republicans opposed to the peace process is the highest than at any time this decade.

“It is as high as it has been in my time in the service,” he said. “Significant efforts are ongoing to tackle the threat. The aim where possible, is to arrest those involved, charge them and bring them to court and to date over 30 people have been arrested this year.”

Dissident republican groups such as the Continuity IRA were formed after mainstream paramilitary organisations such as the IRA declared ceasefires in the mid 1990s.

According to security sources, more than 60 per cent of all electronic information intercepted through wire taps and other covert operations related to them, and they have already claimed responsibility for murder bids on five police officers in Northern Ireland since November.

Also:

MI5 targets dissidents as Irish terror threat grows
Henry McDonald, The Guardian

Bombs and death threats: dissidents step up efforts to derail power-sharing
Henry McDonald, The Guardian

Army’s torture of prisoners ‘had official blessing’
Brian Brady, The Independent

Defence chiefs and ministers face fresh pressure over the treatment of civilians at the hands of British forces in Iraq today, as a new report revives fears that “torture” techniques have been used 30 years after they were banned.

A scathing report from the Joint Human Rights Committee (JHRC) warns that the use of “coercive interrogation techniques” may have been officially sanctioned, despite assurances that troops knew they were outlawed.

The former armed forces minister Adam Ingram and Lieutenant-General Robin Brims, former Commander Field Army, told an earlier committee inquiry that British forces knew they could not use five “conditioning” techniques – wall standing, hooding, subjection to noise, and deprivation of sleep, food and drink – during interrogation.

But the committee has now ruled that their evidence conflicts with the findings of a subsequent court-martial hearing, and an internal Ministry of Defence review into the death of an Iraqi hotel worker, Baha Mousa, at the hands of British soldiers in September 2003.

The JHRC report also found that the use of hooding and stress positioning by 1 Queen’s Lancashire Regiment in 2003 was based on legal advice received from brigade headquarters. It claims that, at least until the Baha Mousa case came to light, the prohibition on the use of conditioning techniques “was not as clearly articulated to troops in Iraq as it might, and indeed should, have been”.

Ferry shipments of ‘terror-threat’ plutonium end
Geoffrey Lean, The Independent

Top-secret shipments of weapons-ready plutonium through British waters have been stopped, after their exposure by The Independent on Sunday. The Department for Transport (DfT) said last week that it had taken “regulatory action” to prohibit the shipments from Sellafield to Normandy on an unarmed old roll-on, roll-off ferry, with few safety or security features. The prohibition, the first of its kind, was imposed after complaints by the French nuclear safety authorities.

The shipments – denounced by nuclear weapons experts as “madness” and “totally irresponsible” – were carrying hundreds of kilograms of plutonium-dioxide powder, described as the ideal material for terrorists seeking to create a nuclear explosion or make a dirty bomb. Only 10kg of the plutonium, experts claim, would be needed to make a terrorist atomic weapon.

British businessman to testify against ‘merchant of death’
David Connett, The Independent

A British businessman, Andrew Smulian, is expected to give evidence against one of the world’s most notorious arms dealers, Viktor Bout. Mr Bout, born in the former Soviet Union and known as the “merchant of death”, is awaiting extradition proceedings from Thailand to the US, where he faces charges of aiding a terrorist organisation. Mr Smulian, Mr Bout’s British-born long-term associate, is believed to have provided evidence for the prosecution.

Mr Bout is alleged to be one of the world’s most wanted arms traffickers. He was reputed to be the model for the character of Yuri Orlov, the arms dealer portrayed by Nicolas Cage in the 2005 movie Lord of War. Mr Bout’s list of alleged customers includes African dictators and warlords such as the former Liberian president Charles Taylor, Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and both sides of the civil war in Angola.

While Mr Bout has been accused of breaking UN arms embargoes – using his own airline to fly weapons all over the world – he has also provided services to Western governments, including Britain’s Ministry of Defence.

Mr Smulian, 46, a military-trained pilot, was arrested in Bangkok with Mr Bout in a sting operation, in which US agents posed as Colombian rebels trying to buy millions of dollars worth of weapons.

Mr Smulian is believed to have a negotiated a plea bargain. Both men currently face charges that could result in 15 years in prison.

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