Police: ‘killing is a tragedy’
By Neil Mackay
THE man shot fives times at point blank range by undercover police was totally unconnected with the London bombings, Scotland Yard admitted last night describing his death as “a tragedy”.
Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, had previously said the man – who was identified last night as 26-year-old Brazilian electrician Jean Charles Menezes – was “directly connected” to anti-terror operations. The Independent Police Complaints Commission has announced an investigation into the killing which was carried out by a member of the Met’s specialist firearms unit. Liberty, the human rights group, called for a full inquiry. Police chiefs urged the public to remember that firearms officers had to “make split second decision” with “life-long consequences”.
Sir Iqbal Sacranie, secretary- general of the Muslim Council of Britain, accepted police were under “tremendous pressure”, but added: “It is vital that the utmost care is taken to ensure that innocent people are not killed due to overzealousness.”
The latest development comes as a variety of intelligence, police and army sources confirmed that “dirty war” tactics honed in Northern Ireland’s Troubles are now being brought to bear against Islamic terrorists in mainland Britain.
Techniques used by the SAS-trained 14th Intelligence Company – also known as The Det – in tracking and killing terrorists are being taught to British police firearms teams such as SO19 and to MI5.
The methods of British military intelligence’s Force Research Unit (FRU) and its successor outfit, the Joint Support Group (JSG), in recruiting and handling double-agents in terror cells are also being taught to MI5 and Special Branch. The FRU is infamous in Ulster because of its history of collusion with terrorist organisations which resulted in the assassinations of innocent civilians.
Former and current members of the FRU, the Det and the JSG have also been headhunted by Special Branch and MI5 as specialist marksmen, watchers and agent-handlers.
“We are playing by big boy rules,” said one intelligence and security source. “We have to use the best tacticians and experts at our disposal and those are the guys who served in Northern Ireland.”
The hard hand taken by special forces fighting Irish terrorism is illustrated by the 1988 killings of three unarmed IRA members on Gibraltar. The Thatcher administration faced a torrent of criticism over the shootings.
Outfits such as the JSG and 14th Intelligence Company now have dedicated training teams for MI5, Special Branch and police marksmen. Other specialist units being drawn on include the SAS and the newly formed Special Reconnaissance Regiment. An SAS unit is on standby for any terrorist activity police cannot cope with. Concerns, however, are mounting within the intelligence community that in the rush to recruit members of the Muslim community into MI5 and Special Branch that the vetting process may not be as thorough as it should be. One intelligence and security source said: “We could end up being infiltrated ourselves by the enemy if we don’t keep our standards high. That’s a nightmare scenario.”
With at least three of the bombers on the loose, following what is believed to be the arrest of the bus bomber in London on Friday, British intelligence and security sources say that they are prepared for more attacks, including bombings in major UK cities beyond London. Glasgow and Birmingham were mentioned as possible targets. It is unknown if other terror cells are still to be activated.
There is also discontent in the lower ranks of MI5 with staff concerned that chiefs spent too much time in recent years trying to encroach on “the straight policing patch” of organised crime and drug-running. MI5 officers are said to feel that they should have concentrated explicitly on the threat of Islamic terrorism.
Last night, a suspect package was found in bushes in north west London. Scotland Yard said it may be linked to Thursday’s attacks. Two men arrested in Stockwell in connection with the attacks are still being questioned at the high security Paddington Green police station.
Police are investigating a potential link between Thursday’s attacks and a whitewater rafting trip attended by two of the July 7 bombers. Officers believe that several people who are linked to addresses which are “of interest” in relation to last week’s attempted bombings, may also have been on the whitewater rafting trip.
• Italian football club Inter Milan has come in for massive criticism after the team cancelled a pre-season tour of England because of the London bombings. Leicester City, which was due to play Inter Milan on Monday, is to sue the soccer team. Crystal Palace said it was “saddened and angry”, and the London Mayor Ken Livingstone added: “The terrorists, I am sure, will be celebrating their decision.”
24 July 2005