Hindu Vivek Kendra
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Ghost in the terror machine

Ghost in the terror machine

Author: David Leppard
Publication: The Times
Date: April 12, 2009
URL: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article6078397.ece

Last week's raids were the result of a long investigation into a wider campaign plotted by an Al-Qaeda chief before his apparent death

Early last Wednesday evening, Phil Harrow, a blood service courier from Toxteth, Liverpool, was sitting in front of his computer in his living room, his attention occasionally distracted by the sounds of the local children playing football on the street outside his front window on Cedar Grove.

At about 5.30pm, the peace was shattered and the children scattered in terror. "Eight armed officers, dressed in black from head to toe and wearing body armour and ski masks, jumped from an unmarked white van, screamed at the children to get out of the street and battered their way into the house two doors down from mine," recalled Harrow.

Within minutes three unmarked police cars and four large yellow police vans had cordoned off the street and about 30 more officers were shouting at residents to stay indoors with their doors and windows shut.

Three Asian men were arrested and quickly driven off. The officers also took away a blue Nissan Micra and a black Vauxhall Corsa after neighbours told them the vehicles belonged to the men.

It was a pattern repeated across the city and the northwest of England as police swooped simultaneously as part of Operation Pathway, which was targeting an alleged Al-Qaeda-driven terror plot aimed at unspecified targets in Britain.

Elsewhere in Liverpool, a man was hauled out of a flat above an off-licence on Earle Road, Wavertree, about half a mile from Cedar Grove. At Liverpool John Moores University across the city, a student was dragged from the library and arrested.

In Manchester two men were picked up in a flat in the Cheetham Hill area, another couple were seized in a cybercafe and a fifth man was arrested on the M602 motorway. Two other men were held in Clitheroe, Lancashire, where they had been staying at a local B&B.

The arrest of the 12 men - 11 Pakistanis and one Briton - had been rushed forward because of a career-ending blunder earlier that day by Bob Quick, the Metropolitan police assistant commissioner who was Britain's chief anti-terror officer.

Quick had been running late for a morning meeting with Gordon Brown at No 10, at which he was to tell the prime minister about the raids which had been planned for 6am the next day. In the taxi on the way, he was reading a document headed Secret: Briefing Note Operation Pathway. Quick was in such a rush that he forgot to put the document back in its buff folder before he got out of the cab.

A photographer snatched a picture of the document which was then transmitted to media outlets around the world. The operation had to be hastily brought forward by 12 hours.

Thankfully, Quick's error had serious consequences only for himself - he resigned on Thursday morning - but it added unnecessary drama and danger to an operation that had already been a close-run thing - and which security sources fear is part of a much bigger threat.

THE trail to the Manchester raids is thought to have begun last December with the arrest of 14 suspected Al-Qaeda terrorists by Belgian police.

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