Police forced to apologise for Forest Gate terror raid

Nigel Morris,Home Affairs Correspondent
Friday 09 June 2006 00:00

Scotland Yard appealed to Muslims in east London to remain calm as it braced itself for a backlash today against the Forest Gate terror raids.

An apology was issued for the upheaval caused by last week's raid, which involved 250 officers, many of them wearing chemical protection suits, and resulted in a suspect being shot in the shoulder. The Metropolitan Police insists it had no choice but to raid the property after receiving intelligence that a device containing cyanide was being built there.

Computers and telephones have been removed from the family house and detectives are continuing to question two brothers under anti-terror powers. However, senior officers admit they have almost given up hope of finding chemicals on the site.

Police believe there is a significant level of radicalisation among young Muslims in the borough of Newham, which includes Forest Gate, and they are preparing themselves for an angry reaction on the streets. Islamic protest groupswill attempt to stage a demonstration outside Forest Gate police station today after Friday prayers. It is being organised by Al Ghurabaa, widely believed to be the successor organisation to Al-Muhajiroun, a radical organisation which was banned by the Government last year.

Anjem Choudary, the former UK head of Al-Muhajiroun, said: "The Muslim community are treated as second-class citizens. There is a shoot-and-ask-questions-later policy which has been facilitated by a raft of draconian laws."

Hundreds of people are also expected to attend a demonstration outside Scotland Yard on Sunday organised by a coalition of Muslim groups.

A spokesman for the protest said: "The heavy-handed tactics of the police are proving counterproductive. Instead of increasing security, high-profile 'terror' raids have only spread more fear. The anti-terror legislation is eroding all of our civil rights."

Assistant Commissioner Andy Hayman of the Metropolitan Police called for calm and said: "We must all pull together in a tolerant manner. This isn't the time for conflict and anger."

Mr Hayman indicated police would meet community leaders to discuss tactics and examine whether things could have been done differently. He said: "I am aware that in mounting this operation we have caused disruption and inconvenience to many residents in Newham, and for that I apologise."

Mr Hayman acknowledged that the wearing of chemical protection suits had "led us to reflect as to whether or not we can do it differently". But he added: "There was a difficult balancing act between officers' safety and public safety and those we would come into contact with in the house. It would be difficult to see how we could reduce the level of officer attendance and equipment." Mr Hayman said he understood that some communities "may be feeling confused or indeed, angry" but he insisted anti-terror operations were not targeted against any particular community, race or faith.

His comments follow warnings from Muslim leaders, as well as Conservative and Labour MPs, that community relations have been undermined by the raid.

The swoop on the house in Lansdown Road was ordered after a police informant gave information about the preparation of a portable device containing cyanide that had been built and was ready to be used. Although forensic specialists have been examining the site for almost a week, it soon became evident that they were unlikely to find anything incriminating.

Police say the search of the house is only one strand of their investigation and they will soon switch to other avenues of inquiry.

Detectives have been given until tomorrow to question Mohammed Abdul Kahar and Abul Koyair, the brothers arrested in the raid. The two men strongly protest their innocence.