Sunday, June 11, 2006

After Forest Gate raid and shooting, anger and questions

(see Humeya Kalam statement, below).
Assad Rehman from Newham Monitoring Project, with family of Jean Charles de Menezes, outside Stockwell station, earlier this year.

WAS it just a dodgy police informer or was MI5 meddling to blame for the Forest Gate fiasco that left one man wounded, his brother wrongfully detained, a family home ripped apart, and a local community seething?

It was four in the morning on Friday, June 2, that residents in Lansdown Road, Frest Gate, Newham, east London, were wakened by the sound of breaking glass and a gunshot. Outside were the flashing lights of police vehicles, and 250 police officers, many of them armed. Police in masks and special protective suits forced their way into No.46, where Abdul Kalam and his wife have lived for some 19 years. His son Mohammad Abdul Kahar, a 23 year old post office worker, was brought out bleeding from a shoulder wound. The younger brother, Abul Koyair, was led out with his hands tied.

The house next-door was also raided, and people assaulted. As neighbours came out in their nightclothes to see what was happening a helicopter droned loudly overhead. By morning No.46 was shrouded in tarpaulins and the street was being cordoned off. There was even an air exclusion zone over the neighbourhood.

The story was that the police had been informed of a plot to release dangerous substances in such a way as to cause major civilian casualties in London. Abdul Kahar was kept under guard at the Royal London hospital while his brother was held at Paddington Green police station, usual venue for "terror suspects". One newspaper was fed a story that the shooting happened when the younger brother grabbed an officer's gun. This tale has been dropped. The man was shot from the front at close range while coming downstairs in vest and shorts. His brother was behind him.

Peter Clarke, the head of the anti-terrorist branch, said after the raid. "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 such as that which we carried out this morning."

After a week in which the house was searched, as well as the brothers' lockers at work, neither chemicals nor any device were found. The two men have been released without charges. The house has been left gutted by the police search and the family are in temporary accomodation. The Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair apologised, but only so far for the disruption caused to neighbours.

Gareth Peirce, the lawyer acting for the family said they would be launching legal action for damages against Sir Ian. 'But it will not be enough; the emotional damage will be enormous,' Peirce said. 'In similar cases, some individuals never recover from an incident like this.' She said the officers failed to give a warning during the raid and did not identify themselves as police. 'The family thought they were armed robbers wearing helmets with their visors pulled down.'

'Nobody identified themselves as police as they stormed in wearing terrifying black hoods and started bashing them over the head. They only realised they were officers when they saw the word police on their backs.'

While police are admitting they acted on faulty intelligence, details of where it came from vary slightly.
'Officers were acting on a tip-off from a known British-based informant, who had contacted Scotland Yard directly, when they carried out their massive raid in Forest Gate nine days ago. It is understood that the two men arrested in the raid knew the informant, and that an MI5 handler checked out his story as "plausible". This contradicts previous reports which suggested that the information came from foreign sources and was received by the intelligence services.'
(Tip-off by police informer led to Forest Gate raid, The Independent, Sunday 11 June. )

Other reports say the Met was told to go ahead with the raid despite expressing misgivings:
'Scotland Yard warned MI5 it had serious reservations about the credibility of the source whose information triggered the Forest Gate anti-terrorism raid only hours before police stormed the suspects' house in east London.
Whitehall sources told The Observer last night the reservations were passed up the chain of command to senior officials in the office of Sir Richard Mottram, the government's security and intelligence co-ordinator, but despite the concerns the police were ordered to go in'.

(Yard told MI5 of terror tip doubt- Police were ordered to make Forest Gate raid. The Observer, Sunday, June 11.,,329501907-102285,00.html )

The massive raid, and attempts to raise "anti-terror" hysteria on flimsy and evidently dodgy "intelligence" have ennabled comedians to make comparisons with the war on Iraq and the subsequent failure to turn up WMDs.

But the shooting of an unarmed, and evidently innocent man has also reminded people less humorously of the killing on the London tube of Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes. A report in the News of the World today says the Independent Police Complaints Commission will report that senior officers knew de Menezes was not a suicide bomber just hours after he was killed, but failed to tell the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair until the following day. The leaked report also says the undercover team following Jean Charles tried to alert their officers that they were tailing an innocent man.

The report should mean heads would roll, including that of Sir Ian Blair. Not that Londoners are holding their breath. We have not forgotten the fatal shooting by police of Scottish-born painter and decorator Harry Stanley, in September 1999, long before the nervous tension of the London bombings provided an excuse. Stanley was on his way home carrying a table leg repaired by a friend, in a plastic bag. Police said they had a tip-off he was carrying a sawn-off shotgun. No police officer was disciplined for the shooting, and Inspector Neil Sharman, one of those responsible, is now a chief inspector.

Newham people have seen past fights against racism and police violence, from which emerged the Newham Monitoring Group* (some of its experienced activists has also been working with the Jean Charles de Menezes family). The area has also seen the Respect coalition led by George Galloway gain a respectable vote, though not doing as well as in neighboring Tower Hamlets. A Respect public meeting after the Forest Gate raid was well-attended, but local people, including Respect supporters, were not too pleased with a headline-stealing call from Muslim convert Yvonne Ridley for Muslims not to co-operate with or talk to the police.

The former "Express" journalist with a daughter at a top private school said she was referring to "unelected" Muslim leaders; but people in the community may well ask who elected Yvonne Ridley? (Respect has distanced itself from her statement).

Still less are local people inclined to welcome the rentamob from el Muhajiroun or its successors, who tried to stop Muslims in Newham and Tower Hamlets from voting, and always turn up to perform wherever there is a TV camera. The family of the two men arrested in the raid a week ago urged Muslims not to take part in a march organised by "al-Ghurabaa", an off-shoot of al-Muhajiroun, on Friday.

This statement was circulated on Friday, to mosques around Newham, and read out to the press at 2pm on Green Street.


Assalaam alaikum Warah matullah,
Brothers & Sisters of our community,

On the morning of Friday 2nd June 2006 myself and my family were awakened by what can only be described as barbaric and horrific actions taken against an innocent family. I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and everyone in the community for their tremendous support and insha'allah that will continue.

I would also like to advise the people of our community that it is my
wish as well as my family's, for people not to attend the protest that will take place after Friday prayers. This will only give provide another opportunity for our community to be portrayed in a negative light. Consequently, this will allow the Police to inflict the same trauma that we have been through on another family. More brothers and sisters as a result, could be arrested, which will have an adverse effect in proving both of my brothers' innocence.

Instead, we would ask you to support a peaceful community demonstration on Sunday 18th June 2006 at 12.00 noon in Plashet Park. This protest will allow our friends, our neighbours and our community the opportunity to show their support for my family and to unite all the people of Newham, from every faith and community, against the effect of such raids.

Humeya Kalam,
on behalf of her family,
46 Lansdown Road, Forest Gate E7.

* Newham Monitoring Project (NMP) is a community-based organisation providing advice and support to people suffering racial harassment, police misconduct and civil injustice issues. Through this work NMP has been atthe forefront of campaigning against racism in east London for 25 years. We are a leading organisation campaigning against attacks on civil liberties including under anti-terrorism laws and the government's use of control orders. NMP is the lead support organisation involved in the Jean Charles de Menezes Campaign.



At 3:26 AM, Blogger Frank Partisan said...

It is fashionable with the US/UK security forces, to shoot first.

How about that Brazilian killed in July last year, for no reason.


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