Is the largest ever UK police anti-terror operation beginning to fall apart?
It started off with tremendous hype. Around 250 police, MI5 agents and health experts, some in bio-chemical suits, launched a dawn raid Friday, June 2 in the east London suburb of Forest Gate. They were billed as conducting an “intelligence-led” search for a chemical weapon built for an attack in Britain. The raiders broke into two addresses and arrested two brothers, Mohammed Abul Kahar, 23 and Abul Koyair, 20, one of whom was shot in the shoulder and taken to hospital.
The raid was carried out amid fears of a new terror attack to coincide with the first anniversary of the July 7 London transport attacks, that left 52 commuters dead and hundreds injured. It was guided by “specific intelligence” that a bomb was assembled ready for use.
First, an explosive bomb vest was mentioned, then deadly sarin, which would be shot from a canister or flask. The railway attack in Tokyo which killed 12 people and injured 5,000 in March 1995 was cited.
The next day, when no bombs or the makings thereof were found at the first two addresses, the police moved on to the two brothers’ workplaces.
Sunday, still nothing was found. The wounded elder brother Kahar was moved to a police facility in Paddington Green for further questioning. Police began to suggest that he may have been shot by his younger brother. It looked as though the London police had become anxious to avoid the fallout from its hasty shooting of an innocent Brazilian last July.
Both the suspects’ solicitors denied this and all other charges. The brothers can be held until June 15 without charge.
The peculiar difficulty of locating chemical weapons – tiny quantities of which are lethal – and getting suspects convicted of terrorism was demonstrated in the only previous case of this kind. On Jan. 5, 2003, a British counter-terror force raided a flat in North London and found some castor seeds from which ricin can be extracted. Nine individuals suspected of plotting a toxic weapon attack were taken into custody, but only one was convicted.
debkafile‘s counter-terror sources note that an awkward question overshadows the drama of the Forest Gate raid. Will the “specific intelligence” provided by the domestic security agency MI5, which drove the raid, stand up? Or did they misread the signs as they did in the 7/7bombing attacks, when the surveillance of two of the four suicide bombers was called off shortly before they struck. MI5 has still not found a single lead to the vanished masterminds of the two July terrorist attacks in London, any more than they have to the controllers of Asif Mohammed Hanif and Omar Khan Sherif, the two British bombers who attacked the Tel Aviv beachfront cafe, Mike’s Place in April 2003. That was the first al Qaeda strike inside Israel.
Caught between the need to reassure the British public and not giving away too much, British intelligence prefers to present British Islamist terror plotters and perpetrators as al-Qaeda sympathizers who operate at the local level, independent of the world jihadist organization.
This view conflicts with the consensus of most counter-terror agencies, which see the various local cells as linked to a worldwide network engaged in a war of terror on the West.