Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Al Qaeda 'thriving' despite 'War on Terror'

Despite high profile court cases and the breaking up of terror cells, al Qaeda is ‘thriving’ according to a high ranking chief at Scotland Yard. In an article published in the Guardian newspaper [25/04/2007], Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke said that despite the six year long “war on terror”, al Qaeda and other terrorist groups still retained the ability to launch attacks on Britain. “It [al Qaeda] is global in origin, reach and ambition. The networks are large, fluid, mobile and incredibly resilient,” he said. He dismissed critics who claimed the threat was overblown and said that more than 100 people awaited trial for terrorist offences. But he said many arrests were brought about by “technical means” [intrusive bugging devices or video surveillance] as well as a flow of information from foreign intelligence agencies. With this in mind it was important to “increase the flow of intelligence coming from [Muslim] communities.”
His comments came as six men were held after terror raids in the early hours of Tuesday [24/04/2007]. Five were arrested in London and another in Luton. Their names were not released to the media, but Abu Izzadeen who is well known for his outspoken views, was believed to be amongst those arrested. Scotland Yard said, “The arrests form part of a long-term, proactive and complex investigation into alleged incitement and radicalisation for the purposes of terrorism, as well as alleged provision of financial support for international terrorism.” Several days later all were charged with terror related charges [BBC]

Abu Ayyub Al Masri, al Qaeda in Iraq’s leader, has been killed according to reports on CNN. However, his body has not been recovered and there was no absolute confirmation of the news [BBC]. It was too early to say if his death, if true, would slow down the insurgency. However there has already been a slight decline in civilian deaths throughout April, despite several ‘spectaculars’ which drew international headlines. In a decline from the previous month, 1,501 Iraqi civilians lost their lives in sectarian and insurgent violence in April, the Iraqi Interior Ministry said Tuesday. March saw 1,872 civilians killed, and 1,646 died in February. There were 2,334 Iraqi civilians wounded during April, compared with 2,708 the month before, the ministry said. Other figures released today showed a general increase over 2006. CNN reported that there was a 25% increase in attacks from the previous year, amounting to 14,000 deaths.

Fertiliser bomb plot saw 5 convictions on Monday [BBC] [30/04/2007]. But there was little celebration. Instead the trial served only to show the widespread terror network in existence. Links to the 7/7 attacks in London in 2005 became apparent, but at the time of police investigations authorities did not see the bombers as a threat. But families of those killed on 7/7 believe there was incompetence in the investigations and demanded an inquiry [BBC]. This has been rejected by Prime Minister Tony Blair s well as other top officials. The war on terror continues to be fought elsewhere too. In Australia a number of men are due to appear before court charged with planning attacks there. According to a report on CNN the nine men had stockpiled chemicals for bomb-making purposes.
The fight against terrorism is also emboldening the terrorists, at least according to one political pundit. The ‘War on Terror’ phrase was all too often making terrorist more important than they were, Hillary Benn said in early April [BBC]. Mr Benn said, "In the UK, we do not use the phrase 'war on terror' because we can't win by military means alone. And because this isn't us against one organised enemy with a clear identity and a coherent set of objectives." The British Director of Public Prosecutions Sir Ken MacDonald, said in January this year that no such war existed and, further, that the very concept of a "war on terror" was dangerous. "It is critical that we understand that this new form of terrorism carries another more subtle, perhaps equally pernicious, risk. Because it might encourage a fear-driven and inappropriate response. By that I mean it can tempt us to abandon our values. I think it important to understand that this is one of its primary purposes," he said.
The phrase may have been dropped from common use [BBC], but the war against terrorists and terrorism continues, even if it only has a marginal effect.

[editorial note: apologies to regular readers for a lack of reporting over the last fortnight. This has been due to a number of factors. Foreign assignments, other work related issues and illness have all taken their toll on regular commentary.]

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