Independent : Terror raids: 'The officers got bad information and are using it to scare everyone'

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Terror raids: 'The officers got bad information and are using it to scare everyone'

By Jonathan Brown | April 23, 2009

The last two officers on duty outside the former home of Hamzah Khan Shenwari, the only British national arrested in the raids, slipped away quietly yesterday afternoon.

They had been on duty outside the modest red brick terrace house around the clock since dozens of heavily armed officers swooped on an unsuspecting Galsworthy Avenue in Cheetham Hill, Manchester, 13 days ago with the aim of smashing an alleged terrorist plot. But as mothers walked with prams and children returned from school in the sunshine yesterday, the shock troops were long gone. So too were the forensic teams that had toiled for the best part of two weeks trying to find evidence against the two men that lived there. Shortly after lunch it was the turn of the uniformed guards to take their leave.

Mr Shenwari, who at 42 was the oldest of the group of associates, was considering his future with friends yesterday, hoping to make contact with his wife and children in Pakistan and make sure they were safe. Unlike the others he is not facing deportation but he wasn't planning on coming back to Cheetham Hill anytime soon, his lawyer Sawar Khan said.

The security guard's former neighbours meanwhile were left feeling a sense of both vindication and frustration that their community had once again been thrust into the unwelcome media spotlight. Ummair Shafiq, 21, has lived in and around Galsworthy Drive with his two brothers, sister and numerous cousins, all his life. "I can tell you what everyone thinks around here and that is that there is no terrorism," said the 21-year-old part-time student. "The police got bad information and they are just using it to scare everyone. It is just scare tactics.

"These people are not terrorists, they work nine to five, they are very religious. We have got used to it here. Every year there is going on to do with terrorism – it has become a daft game. But now people are afraid to talk and joke in case they get accused of being in al-Qa'ida. It is creating paranoia," he said.

Mohammed Mohammed, 19, said he had admired Mr Shenwari, praying with him at the local mosque. "He made me very welcome. I never expected something like this to happen," he said. "It makes me think that last time they took an innocent man now they might take me as well. But when we come to a country as Muslims we must obey the rules."

One Muslim father of four, who asked not to be identified, said he was glad to be back to normal after putting up with police cars running outside his house in the middle of the night, keeping his children awake. He said he was growing tired of explaining to them what was going on. "Every day they are asking me questions. They should have made sure everything was correct."