On Saturday, we noted the raid by London police on a house where chemical bomb-making was suspected. Two brothers were arrested; one was shot in the shoulder. Since then, the police have been searching the house, but so far haven’t found what they’re looking for. The authorities are worried that the chemical bomb may have been spirited away from the house before the raid:
Anti-terrorist police hunting for a suspected chemical-based bomb after a raid on a house in east London fear that the device may have been moved and could still be used.
Two days after a man was shot as armed officers stormed the house in Lansdown Road, Forest Gate, a search has failed to yield any evidence of a bomb.
Police and MI5, whose intelligence led to the operation, are still working on the basis that the tip was reliable and that a device exists that could release poisonous gas on detonation.
As Scotland Yard braces itself for a damning report on the handling of an anti-terrorist operation last July in which an innocent Brazilian was shot dead, it is acutely aware that it will face criticism and possible legal action from the wounded man and his family if no bomb is found.
The counter-attack has already begun:
The new leader of Britain’s biggest Muslim organisation said yesterday that trust between the police and the community affected by last week’s terrorism raid in east London could break down.
Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari was speaking after Scotland Yard insisted that it had “no choice” but to mount the armed raid last Friday, which led to a man being injured and had so far failed to uncover any terrorist material.
Dr Bari said members of the community were beginning to question what had taken place.
“People want to know what exactly happened and about the intelligence – is it genuine information, is it flawed? These are the questions police have to answer as soon as possible.
Flawed intelligence? How is that possible? Intelligence relating, not to a far-away, secretive police state, but to a house in east London! Meanwhile, the police are trying to figure out whether a chemical device, believed to be designed to emit sarin gas, is loose somewhere in London. It all has a rather familiar ring.
UPDATE: From the Guardian:
Senior counter-terrorism officials now believe that the intelligence that led to the raid on a family house last Friday in a search for a chemical device about to be used to attack Britain was wrong, the Guardian has learned.
Counter-terrorism officials were under pressure last night after days of meticulous search of the house in east London failed to produce anything to link the two men they arrested to a chemical plot. But a senior police officer said they had been left with “no choice” but to force entry into the house because there was specific intelligence of a threat to public safety.
It is understood that attempts to corroborate the information were not made because of the perceived need to act quickly. “If there was an immediate risk to public safety, there would not have been time to bug the house,” an intelligence source said. A counter-terrorism official said: “If the intelligence was right there was a serious risk to the public. We did not know if it was right or not until we went in.” Another official added: “Intelligence is patchy. Even if it suggests a 5% likelihood of something nasty, we can’t take that risk”.
That’s true, of course. But that doesn’t mean the authorities won’t be sued if they guessed wrong.