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From theMarch 2002 issue of World Press Review (VOL. 49, No. 3)

Britain Pushes for Euro-Sleuthing

Europe’s Shared Security System


Nick Hopkins, The Guardian (liberal), London, England, Jan. 10, 2002

Scotland Yard is spearheading plans to create a pan-European anti-terrorist task force to help track down and prosecute members of Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda network.

A senior metropolitan police officer was also put in charge of a new counterterrorism unit that will concentrate on rooting out Al-Qaeda terrorist suspects living in or traveling through the United Kingdom.

Both initiatives are seen as essential in reducing the likelihood of attacks in Britain and reflect growing concern within the police and security services about the number of potential terrorists at large.

Scotland Yard estimates that there are “substantially more” than 100 Al-Qaeda-linked suspects and activists
in Britain.

Fifteen countries in Europe have signed up to create an international anti-terrorist task force. It will not be a separate agency, but will enhance existing protocols so that there is much closer cross-border cooperation between police forces and prosecutors. This should ensure that evidence against terrorists is shared and that there are no “territorial” conflicts.
As an example, a Briton arrested in Madrid for terrorist offenses would normally be extradited to Britain to stand trial. But if pooled evidence against the suspect indicated that a prosecution abroad would be more likely to succeed, then he would remain there.

“We want to leap above the chauvinism of criminal justice systems,” said [Scotland Yard’s Head of Special Operations David] Veness.“We want to use existing laws more wisely. We could have made more of an impact on terrorism if we had a more coordinated approach.” He said the task force would help investigators “knit together the tracks” of terrorist
suspects.

The separate police international counterterrorism unit (Pictu) is in the process of being set up. Reporting to Alan Fry, head of Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorist branch, it will be staffed by officers from the police, MI5, and MI6. Veness said Pictu would coordinate the activities of special branch units around the country to help early assessment of any perceived terrorist threat. The unit will also be proactive in launching operations against suspects to help investigators get “on the front foot.”

Veness said officers had identified potential terrorist suspects from seven proscribed groups, including Al-Qaeda, the Armed Islamic Group, Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Harakat Mojahedin.

He said the Metropolitan Police would not hesitate to use recent anti-terrorist legislation against anyone it thought posed a threat.

The international task force and Pictu are the two main pillars of a 10-point counterterrorism program drawn up by Veness in recent weeks to reflect what he called the “seismic shift” in threats posed by the attacks in the United States on Sept. 11.


 
Daily News War on Terrorism


International News and International Freedom of the Press




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