UK CT & COIN Features – 11 August 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.

Islamist threat to behead prison officer
Graham Tibbetts, The Telegraph

Islamist extremists are threatening to take a prison officer hostage and behead him on camera, it has been reported. Prison authorities have compiled an action plan for dealing with a kidnap plot involving radicalised Muslim convicts inside Britain’s jails.

The dossier has been compiled in the past few months following rising tension in the prison system.

Intelligence gathered from Britain’s eight top-security prisons indicate that specific threats to kidnap and decapitate an officer first emerged at Whitemoor prison in Cambridgeshire six months ago.

However, a senior prison source said that the risk went beyond one jail.

“This is a threat faced by officers in prisons from across the country. This is why the prison service is preparing direct intervention if ever a prison officer is taken hostage,” he told the Daily Mail.

Threats to kidnap and execute a warder also surfaced at Frankland prison in Co Durham last weekend.

General Petraeus hails SAS after Iraq success over al-Qaeda car bombers
Deborah Haynes, The Times

The SAS has helped to defeat a murderous web of al-Qaeda car bombers in Baghdad that brought devastation to the capital, the top US commander in Iraq said yesterday as he heaped praise on the unit’s efforts.

General David Petraeus, who is due to leave his post in Iraq shortly, also dismissed the notion that American and British military relations had been strained by the recent offensive in Basra, emphasising that the problem of tackling militias in the southern port city had been rightfully Iraqi-led.

The four-star general, looking ahead to his next posting in charge of Central Command, said he would draw on lessons learnt from his four years in Iraq on how to fight an insurgency when tackling his new area of responsibility, which includes Afghanistan, Iran, Syria and Lebanon.

He said that Britain’s special forces in Iraq worked alongside their American counterparts on “many, many cases of very important operations.

“They have helped immensely in the Baghdad area, in particular, to take down the al-Qaeda car bomb networks and other al-Qaeda operations in Iraq’s capital city, so they have done a phenomenal job in that regard,” he told The Times in an interview at his office in Baghdad’s fortified green zone.

On one occasion, SAS troops rented a pink pickup truck, stripped off their body armour to blend in better with the local population, jumped behind the wheel and drove through the traffic to catch a key target.

“It was brilliant, actually,” General Petraeus said. “Who dares wins,” he said, quoting the SAS motto. “They have exceptional initiative, exceptional skill, exceptional courage and, I think, exceptional savvy. I can’t say enough about how impressive they are in thinking on their feet.”

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