Asian News : Community not surpised by release of terror suspects

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Community not surpised by release of terror suspects

April 23, 2009

PEOPLE in Cheetham Hill reacted with dismay but not surprise at the news that 11 terror suspects had been released without charge.

Locals say the raids by armed officers - and the apparent lack of evidence against those arrested - had blunted their confidence in the police.

For more than a century, the district has been the first port of call for thousands of migrants, from Manchester's cotton mill heyday to the present day.

Those who know the 12 men who were arrested two weeks ago said they were not surprised by their release.

Takeaway worker Hamza Gilazi, whose own house on Abercarn Close was investigated by police, said he knew four of the arrested men.

Mr Gilazi, 31, who was not questioned or arrested, but had to stay at a friend's home for five days while officers combed his home, said the men involved had never expressed extreme views. He said: "The guys came here a couple of times. I guess the police thought something was hidden here.

"I've known them about a year. Two of them are not really religious and I was always confident they had nothing to do with a plot, because they never spoke about anything political or suggested anything violent."

Officers searched the house and removed items, including music CDs and DVDs, which have still to be returned.

The area has been used by people linked to extremist terror - notably al-Qaida fanatic Kamel Bourgass, who killed policeman Stephen Oake at a flat in Cheetham Hill in 2003. And last year local taxi driver Habib Ahmed was jailed for 10 years for his role in a plot to build a terror cell in the city.

However, residents point to other terrorism raids which have proved fruitless. In 2007, two men were arrested at a house on Heywood Street, but released without charge.

Manchester University student Tariq Khan, 30, who knew one of the men held, said: "When the first raids happened, we thought the police must have had some evidence. But when we found out who they were, we realised there must have been a mistake, because the guy is a peaceful person.

"A lot of international students live around here. Many now feel very uncomfortable and worry that something like this could happen to them."

One shopowner, who declined to be named, said he was fed up with the area being linked to extremism.

He said: "People from all over the world live here: Pakistanis, Jews, Arabs and Africans. This gives us all a bad name.

"The police have got to do their job, but the fact that they were so heavy-handed and still got nothing will make people trust them less."

At Galsworthy Avenue, where three of the arrested men lived, residents were `quietly angry' about the level of force used in the raids.

Housewife and mum-of-four Bushra Majid said: "Policemen with machine guns came to our street at 5 o'clock in the afternoon when children were playing out and told us to get inside.

"If it happened somewhere else, then there would have been some sort of inquiry."

Sales assistant Fatima Jamil, 25, said: "I'm frightened we are getting labelled as an extremist neighbourhood because this is a mostly Muslim area.

"People going to mosque regularly, and some men having beards, is quite normal here - it doesn't mean that they are plotting terror."