In furtherance of British investigations of routing jihadist among them , antiterrorism authorities raided a home and two offices on June 3 on Lansdown Road in Forest Gate, London, that were suspected to be part of a chemical bomb plot. Some of the 250 officers involved donned biological and chemical rubber suits and protective clothing for the raid. Authorities searched for “some form of viable chemical device” like a conventional bomb laced with a toxic material. However, no details were released on what toxin might have been sought nor on the actual plot. In fact, to date, nothing extraordinary has been recovered from the home or offices. Two suspects?Muslim brothers Abul Koyair (20) and Mohammed Abdul Kahar (23) of Bangladeshi origin?were arrested and denied terrorist association. The men were released from Paddington Green police station on June 13 due to insufficient evidence against them.
This operation was one of the largest undertaken by authorities since the July 7, 2005 London Tube suicide bombings . However, authorities were quick to distance this raid from the suicide bombing campaign of last year.
The Forest Gate neighborhood is ethnically diverse with a notable Muslim population. Mohammed Abdul Kahar, in a subsequent press conference, told media that he had applied to become a Community Support Officer but has now changed his mind. The concept of Muslim CSOs is a positive step toward cross-cultural awareness and understanding and might help to ameliorate simmering ethnic tensions. This concept is one that should be learned throughout Europe. However, Kahar’s withdrawal from the program underscores a wide-reaching distrust of police and government officials, who are seen variously as heavy-handed, xenophobic, and above the law. This, then, is an example of host countries alienating Muslim populations. And, repeated raids of this nature will do serious damage to both anti-terrorism efforts and to public confidence.
The British security apparatus now faces a blame game, according to the BBC, of shouldering the embarrassment of both finding no chemical device and of adversely affecting public confidence and trust. Metropolitan Police Commissioner Ian Blair now faces criticism and calls for resignation for the botched raids, and it calls into question authorities’ reliance on questionable intelligence, in this case a tip-off from an informant. On the day of the raid, Peter Clark, the head of the anti-terrorism branch of the Met, said that “the intelligence was such that it demanded an intensive investigation and response. The purpose of the investigation, after ensuring public safety, is to prove or disprove the intelligence that we have received. This is always difficult and sometimes the only way to do so is to mount an operation?,” (source) possibly an illusion to his fear that nothing would be found. A lesson might have been learned from the Canadian plot discovery , in acting on credible intelligence after prolonged surveillance, to include SIGINT. However, if HUMINT had intimated an imminent threat, particularly one involving chemical weapons, police would have been unlikely to rest on their laurels and risk public health and safety. This is a difficult balance for authorities to meet, especially when communication is often encoded to evade authorities. Just like the accidental shooting of a Brazilian in the aftermath of the July 7 attacks , a bit of leeway should be granted to authorities who are tasked with the daunting task of insuring a nation against acts of terrorism. For, imagine the consequences and outrage had authorities chosen not to raid the Landsdown house on the same HUMINT and suffered a successful chemical terrorist act in London. Police would, then, have been criticized for missing or discounting key intelligence.
The men have not ruled out legal action and have demanded an apology from “who[m]ever sanctioned the raid.” The brothers and their family have spoken in press conferences about the raid, a move that will certainly not help the police’s case and is, instead, putting security forces on their heals.