Manchester Evening News : Terror raids 'lessons' warning

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Terror raids 'lessons' warning

Exclusive | David Ottewell | April 23, 2009

THE Muslim community's confidence in the police is heading for crisis point following the release without charge of 12 men arrested in anti-terror raids, says one of Manchester's leading politicians.

Coun Afzal Khan, a former Lord Mayor, said confidence could be lost because 'too many times the police are getting it wrong.'

Eleven of the 12 men, who are Pakistani nationals in Britain on visas, face deportation after being handed over to the UK Borders Agency. The twelfth is a British citizen from Cheetham Hill.

Lord Carlile of Berriew is to carry out an independent investigation into the case and will interview `all concerned' - including those arrested.

Senior security sources told the M.E.N they remained 'absolutely' confident the men, arrested in a string of armed raids in Manchester and other parts of the north west, had posed a real and immediate threat to Britain.

Peter Fahy, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, said he did not feel embarrassed or humiliated by the lack of charges – adding that he would do the same again.

Police sources said that while the intelligence against the men had been ‘compelling’, it was not matched by evidence gathered from searches of properties, computers and mobile phones.


Coun Khan – a councillor for Cheetham where four of the raids took place – said: “The Muslim community has always been supportive but we need to make sure that support is not lost. We are reaching a point where there is a danger of that.

“I am not saying the police should not act. I fully support the police and want them to protect us. My concern is that too many times they are getting it wrong. That is affecting the confidence in the relationship between the police and the public – particularly the Muslim community.

“It is having an adverse effect on internal community relations. An independent inquiry must look at the way the police are working and dealing with terrorism. If there are lessons to be learned, they need to be learned quickly.”

Martin Pagel, another Cheetham councillor and former deputy council leader, said: “We all support the police but by the same token there has to be some explanation to people so they can be assured the police are not getting it wrong.”


The men were arrested on April 8 after co-ordinated raids on 14 addresses in the north west, including the four in Manchester. The British citizen was arrested in a car on the M602.

He is understood to be a member of Tabligee Jamat, an Islamic group which goes door-to-door in local communities visiting Muslims to reinforce their faith by getting them to pray and attend the mosque.

A Pashtun speaker, he was active in the group in the Cheetham Hill area, according to locals, and has been in Britain for up to nine years. He worked as a delivery driver and regularly attended his local mosque.

Mr Fahy – asked if the arrests had foiled a terror attack – admitted: “We do not know that. We cannot say that. That starts to imply guilt against those people involved.”

But he said that 68 people nationally are on trial or awaiting trial for alleged terrorist offences.

“This shows there’s a real threat to this country,” he said.

Mr Fahy said the police’s actions had been right, given the intelligence.

“I do not feel embarrassed or humiliated by what we have done because we have carried out our duty to protect the people of Greater Manchester,” he said. “I have to put the safety of the public first.

“We do not carry out this sort of operation on a wing or a prayer or on a whim.”

Cheetham has long been the focus of anti-terror measures. The area is a mile from the Crumpsall Lane flat where Det Con Stephen Oake was stabbed to death during an anti-terror raid.

And late last year, Habib Ahmed, a taxi driver from Cheetham, was jailed for 10 years for his role in a plot to build a Manchester terror cell.