UK police appeal for help to counter terror threats

Saturday March 11 2017

Members of the English Defence League outside a pub in London on May 22, 2013 after suspected Islamists had brutally murdered a man believed to be a serving British soldier in what Prime Minister David Cameron said appeared to have been a terrorist attack. PHOTO | JUSTIN TALLIS | AFP

Members of the English Defence League outside a pub in London on May 22, 2013 after suspected Islamists had brutally murdered a man believed to be a serving British soldier in what Prime Minister David Cameron said appeared to have been a terrorist attack. PHOTO | JUSTIN TALLIS | AFP 

By GERRY LOUGHRAN
More by this Author

When a sharp-eyed woman saw a large bag of fertiliser in a wholesale storage area, she called the police. Why? Because fertiliser can be used in the manufacture of bombs.

It could have been perfectly innocent but, as a result of her call, police stalled an incipient terror attack. They said a man had procured the fertiliser to make bombs for al-Qaeda, a terrorist group.

Last week, police chief Mark Rowley said the security services have prevented 13 potential terror attacks in the last four years and he appealed for the public to report any suspicions.

“If you call and it turns out that there was no problem, that’s fine,” he said. “We would rather have many calls like that than miss the critical one that helps us stop an attack.”

There are more than 500 live counter-terror investigations going on in the UK at any one time and information from the public has helped police in a third of all investigations.

Much of the threat is posed by Islamic State, but far-right violence is also involved. As well as planned violence, police are dealing with encrypted communications methods, propaganda and radicalisation of young people.

MOST OFFENCES

A think tank, the Henry Jackson Society, calculated that people born in Britain account for most offences. In a breakdown of terrorist convictions, it said a third related to planning an attack and a third to facilitating terrorism, for example through fund-raising. The remaining convictions were mainly travel offences or “aspirational” activity.

Commissioner Rowley said, “Now we worry about everything from simple attacks with knives or using vehicles all the way through to more complex firearms attacks.”

Convictions in recent years included Nadir Syed, 23, of London, for planning an attack linked to Remembrance Sunday, when Britain honours the dead of two world wars; two London students for plotting to kill police or soldiers in a drive-by shooting using a moped; a truck driver who planned to run over US airmen outside their base in Suffolk; a boy aged 14, Britain’s youngest convicted terrorist, who tried to incite a man in Australia to kill soldiers; an older teenager who determined to behead a British soldier.

The head of MI6 said recently that the scale of the terrorism threat was “unprecedented.”

***

British police get calls about missing persons every 90 seconds and the total disappearances in 2015-2016 were 335,624.

Seventy-nine per cent return within 24 hours but some are never found. Steven Cooper disappeared from his home in Huddersfield in 2008 and is still missing. His mother Margaret said, “It’s not knowing if he is alive or dead that is the worst thing.”

***

Victims of knife fights are paying animal doctors to fix their wounds because they fear police will get involved if they go to a hospital.

Some are worried about being seen as informants – there is a saying that “snitches get stitches” – while others fear being implicated if the fight has resulted in serious injuries.

Social workers in Nottingham say the going rate for treatment by a veterinarian is £200.

Vets are not legally permitted to prescribe medicines for humans, but there are no rules about treating wounds.

***

A dollar bill and a twenty dollar bill arrived at the Federal Reserve to be retired and they started chatting. “I’ve had a great life,” the twenty said. “I’ve been to casinos at Las Vegas and Monte Carlo, I’ve been on luxury yachts in the Caribbean, I visited some of the world’s greatest hotels. What about you?”

“Oh well,” said the dollar bill, “I haven’t been around much. I’ve been to a lot of churches, Methodist, Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian.”

“What’s a church?” asked the twenty dollar bill

 ***

Two men are sitting next to each other in a pub. One says, “I can’t help but think, listening to you, that you’re from Scotland.” Says the other, “Aye, you’re right there, I’m from Glasgow.”

“Is that so?” remarks the first man. “I’m a Glaswegian, myself. Where did you live exactly?” He says, “I was born in McClaren Street and went to St Mary’s school.”

“Och away,” the first man says. “I was born in that very street and went to the same school. Tell me, what year did you leave?” “That would be 1964,” the second man says.

“I don’t believe it!” the first one exclaims. “This is uncanny. That was the very year I left myself. Isn’t it amazing we should wind up in the same place tonight!”

About that time a customer walks up to the bar and orders a drink. Pulling his pint, the barman shakes his head. “It’s going to be a long night,” he says. “Why’s that?” asks the customer.

“The McTavish twins are drunk again.”