Profile: Metropolitan Police Service
Metropolitan Police Service was a participant or observer in the following events:
British authorities repeatedly reject requests submitted by Italian judge Stefano D’Ambruoso, who wants to interview leading London-based radical imam Abu Hamza al-Masri. The requests are made because D’Ambruoso is surprised by how many times Abu Hamza’s name crops up in connection with terror inquiries in Italy. However, the Metropolitan Police, for which Abu Hamza works as an informer (see Early 1997), declines the requests, saying that it cannot force Abu Hamza to talk to D’Ambruoso. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 107-108] The Metropolitan Police had previously hampered an interview of Abu Hamza by French authorities (see 1997). The exact timing of the requests is not known, but links between terror cells based in Milan and London are discovered in 2000-2001 (see Early 2000-2001, Between 2000 and April 2001, and June 29, 2001), so they presumably begin to be submitted at this time. Britain has a “covenant of security” with Abu Hamza and other leading radicals which allows them to encourage militant operations outside Britain (see August 22, 1998).
Kamal Bourgass’s flat in Wood Green, north London. [Source: BBC]Metropolitan Police raid a flat in Wood Green, north London, and discover a locked bag in a room occupied by an Islamist militant named Kamal Bourgass. An illegal immigrant from Algeria, Bourgass had arrived in Britain, hidden in a truck, in 2000. Using several false names, he remained in the country after failing to get asylum in December 2001, despite being fined for shoplifting in 2002 (see July 2002). [Independent, 4/17/2005] In addition, police had discovered a false passport for Bourgass in a raid on a storage depot in Wembley, north London, on June 22, 2002. [BBC, 4/13/2005]
'Kitchen Chemistry' - The bag contains an envelope with instructions in Arabic for manufacturing poisons and explosives, as well as lists of chemicals. These “poison recipes” are in Bourgass’s writing. The envelope has the address of the Finsbury Park mosque with the name of “Nadir,” a name which Bourgass also used. Other discoveries include a cup containing apple seeds, cherry stones, nail polish remover, and a bottle of acetone. The search also uncovers 20 castor beans and £14,000 in cash. [Observer, 4/17/2005] In addition, there are stolen bottles of mouthwash and several toothbrushes, which are still in their packaging. The packaging appears to have been tampered with, indicating the plan may have been to poison the toothbrushes and then replace them on shop shelves. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 245] Police announce that they have discovered a “poisons laboratory” that contains recipes for ricin, toxic nicotine, and cyanide gas weapons. [Observer, 4/17/2005] However, a senior policeman will later be dismissive of the level of the poisons, calling what is found “garden shed, kitchen chemistry.” [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 245]
Other Arrests - Other flats are raided and seven North Africans are arrested. Six men are arrested on January 5 in north and east London and another man is arrested on January 8 in central London. [Fox News, 1/8/2003] The arrests include a 17-year-old. Police uncover additional poison recipes, false papers, and computer discs with bomb-making instructions.
Bourgass Murders Police Officer - Bourgass had been named as ringleader and other Algerians as co-conspirators in the alleged plot in an intelligence report passed to British officials from Algerian security forces. This report was the result of the interrogation of alleged al-Qaeda operative Mohammed Meguerba (see September 18, 2002-January 3, 2003). Bourgass is not present during the Wood Green raid. However, on January 14, a raid on a flat in Crumpsall Lane, Manchester, seeking another terror suspect, uncovers Bourgass and alleged conspirator Khalid Alwerfeli. After a violent struggle, Bourgass stabs and murders policeman Stephen Oake and wounds several other police officers. [Independent, 4/17/2005]
Raid on Finsbury Park Mosque. [Source: BBC]The Metropolitan Police mount an early morning raid on Finsbury Park mosque, sending in 200 officers.
Decision to Launch - The raid is primarily the result of intelligence about Kamal Bourgass, a man implicated in an alleged ricin plot (see September 18, 2002-January 3, 2003). Bourgass was in possession of an envelope with instructions in Arabic for manufacturing poisons and explosives, as well as lists of chemicals, discovered by police during a raid in Wood Green days earlier (see January 5, 2003). These “poison recipes” were in Bourgass’s writing, and the envelope had the address of the Finsbury Park Mosque with the name of “Nadir,” an alias used by Bourgass. [Observer, 4/17/2005; O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 254] Like other illegal immigrants, Bourgass had used the mosque as a place to stay and as his postal address for correspondence with the immigration service. He had stayed there in the weeks before his attempts to make ricin were discovered. [BBC, 2/7/2006] In addition, one of many suspects detained by the police around Britain at this time tells police that the photocopier in the mosque’s office had been used to copy some “recipes” written by Bourgass. Other suspects detained have links to the mosque, and have worked or slept there. Finally, two suspects the police want to detain are known to sleep in the mosque’s basement.
High-Level Approval - Due to the politically sensitive nature of the operation, it is approved in advance by Prime Minister Tony Blair, Home Secretary David Blunkett, and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. In the 24 hours before the raid, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens says publicly that many terrorists are under surveillance and Blunkett says he is happy for counterterrorist units to take “whatever steps necessary, controversial, or otherwise.” [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 254-256]
Searches, Discoveries - Armored officers batter down the doors to begin days of searches. In addition, they make seven arrests. After the trial and conviction of radical cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri for hate crimes in February 2006, police will reveal their discoveries from the raid. The police uncover chemical weapons protection suits, pistols, CS spray, and a stun gun. Other military paraphernalia include a gas mask, handcuffs, hunting knives, and a walkie-talkie. The police also find more than 100 stolen or forged passports and identity documents, credit cards, laminating equipment, and checkbooks hidden in the ceiling and under rugs, as well as more than $6,000 in cash. A senior police officer will say, “The fact that they were happy to keep this sort of stuff in the building is an indication of how safe and secure they felt they were inside.” Authors Daniel McGrory and Sean O’Neill will comment, “This was exactly the kind of material that informants like Reda Hassaine had told the intelligence services about years before” (see 1995-April 21, 2000).
Afterwards - Despite the haul, Abu Hamza is neither arrested nor interviewed, although police believe he must have known what was going on. The items seized will not be mentioned at his trial, or, with the exception of the photocopier, the ricin trial. However, they lead to police inquiries in 26 countries, which McGrory and O’Neill will call “a clear indication of the reach and influence of the terrorist networks operating out of Finsbury Park.” [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 260-262; BBC, 2/7/2006]
British police investigate Mohammad Sidique Khan, who will be the head suicide bomber in the 7/7 London bombings later in the year (see July 7, 2005). In March 2004, Khan’s car had been in a crash and he had been loaned a courtesy car by an auto shop while it was being repaired. That same month, MI5 monitored Khan driving the loaned car with Omar Khyam, a key figure in the 2004 fertilizer bomb plot (see Early 2003-April 6, 2004 and February 2-March 23, 2004). On January 27, 2005, police take a statement from the manager of the auto shop. The manager says the car was loaned to a “Mr. S Khan,” and gives Khan’s mobile phone number and two addresses associated with him. MI5 had followed Khan to one of these addresses in February 2004 after Khan had met with Khyam and dropped him off at his residence (see February 2-March 23, 2004). Then, on February 3, 2005, an officer from Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorism branch asks questions to the company which had insured Khan’s car. The officer learns Khan registered the car in his own name and the name of his mother-in-law. None of this information will be presented in the 2006 investigation into the 7/7 bombings by the government’s Intelligence and Security Committee. This also contradicts repeated assertions by government officials that Khan’s name was not known before the bombings. The Guardian will comment when this information comes to light in 2007: “The revelation suggests Khan was being investigated much nearer to the London bombings than has been officially admitted. The discovery that Khan was reinvestigated the following year appears to contradict claims from MI5 that inquiries about him came to an end in 2004 after it was decided that other terrorism suspects warranted more urgent investigation.” [Guardian, 5/3/2007] In early 2004, MI5 classified Khan a suspect worth investigating, but went after higher priority suspects first (see March 29, 2004 and After). It is unknown if any more action is taken on him before the July bombings.
By March 2005, senior officers in Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorist branch conclude that Britain is likely to be attacked by “home-grown” terrorists. One senior officer predicts that an attack could be mounted by Britons with bombs in backpacks, who would blow themselves up on the London subway. This is exactly what will occur in July (see July 7, 2005). However, Britain’s domestic intelligence agency MI5 sharply disagrees. In June, an assessment made by a group of top counterterrorism officials will conclude that no group has the intention or capability of attacking within Britain (see Mid-June 2005). [Guardian, 5/13/2006]
One day after the failed 21/7 London bombings that attempted to duplicate the 7/7 bombings two weeks earlier (see July 21, 2005 and July 7, 2005), it is reported that Scotland Yard was tipped off about the bombings, but failed to stop them. An unnamed informant told police that there would be another round of bombings during the week, but could not name exactly where or when. Police chiefs correctly deduced it would probably take place on a Thursday, exactly two weeks after the 7/7 bombings. As a result, starting this morning, the London subway system is flooded with undercover armed police, as well as openly armed police. In some stations, such as Westminster, passengers are asked to take off backpacks and then line them up against walls, where sniffer dogs smell for possible explosives. One eyewitness will say: “I have never seen anything like that in London before, even after the July 7 bombings. There were at least eight officers, including several with machine guns, just at one underground station.” At 9:29 a.m., an armed unit races to Farringdon station and closes in on one suspected bomber, but apparently narrowly misses him. (The bombers will not attempt to detonate their bombs until about noon, and none of them will be at Farringdon station at the time.) Around the same time, about two hours before the bombers strike, Home Secretary Charles Clarke gives a confidential briefing to senior cabinet ministers, saying that another attack, possibly a copycat attack, is likely. However, no public warning is given. [Mirror, 7/22/2005] Although the bombers fail to cause mass death, it will later be determined that this was only because the explosives had not been prepared properly. It will not be explained how the bombers were able to get their bombs past the heightened security to stations in central London.
Jean Charles de Menezes [Source: The Independent]Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes, 27, is shot seven times in the head and once in the shoulder at Stockwell Tube station, south London. Police had mistaken him for a suicide bomber. Stockwell passenger Mark Whitby describes the scene: “One of them was carrying a black handgun - it looked like an automatic - they pushed him to the floor, bundled on top of him and unloaded five shots into him.” [BBC, 7/22/2005] Initial reports indicate that de Menezes was challenged and refused to obey an order to stop. Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair says the shooting is “directly linked” to the ongoing London bombs inquiry and manhunt spurred by the previous day’s attempted terror attacks (see July 21, 2005). Other early reports say that de Menezes was wearing a heavy coat despite the fact that it was a very warm day, had vaulted the barrier, and attempted to run onto a Tube train. Later reports contradict all of these claims. In addition, police claim that there is an absence of CCTV footage of the pursuit and shooting. The Independent Police Complaints Commission investigation following the shooting is able to establish a probable timeline of events. A police surveillance team was assigned to monitor the Tulse Hill area where de Menezes lived, as evidence linked it to the July 21 attacks. Upon exiting the building on the day of the shooting, de Menezes was identified as a possible suicide bomber by the surveillance unit and followed to the Tube station. The police were under strict orders not to allow any potential bombers on to a train and so a quick decision was made to perform an armed “hard stop.” The unarmed surveillance officers subsequently had to call in an armed response team. By the time the armed unit arrived, de Menezes, wearing a light denim jacket, had paid for his Tube travel and was walking down towards the train. Eyewitnesses described men leaping the barriers and rushing down the stairs towards the same area. Other witnesses put other possible plainclothes officers on the train, searching for the suspect. Once de Menezes had been spotted, the officers, out of radio contact with their superiors on the surface, made their decision quickly. New training had advised officers that it was crucial not to allow a suspect any time to detonate a device and that shots to the chest could cause a bomb to explode. This training instructed officers to wear plain clothes, not identify themselves until the last possible moment, and to aim for the head. The officers in the Tube station chased de Menezes on to the train, pinned him down and shot him. [Guardian, 8/14/2005] Prime Minister Tony Blair says he is “desperately sorry” about the shooting and expresses Britain’s “sorrow and deep sympathy” to the de Menezes family. He also says the police must be supported in doing their job. London Mayor Ken Livingstone says, “Consider the choice that faced police officers at Stockwell last Friday - and be glad you did not have to take it.” The de Menezes family retain legal counsel and consider suing Scotland Yard. [BBC, 7/25/2005] On November 1, 2007, prosecutors accuse the Metropolitan Police Service of “shocking and catastrophic error” during a trial at London’s Old Bailey Central Criminal Court. They say that police had criminally endangered the public, first by allowing a man they believed was a bomber to board an underground train, then by shooting him at point blank range. A jury convicts the police of a single charge of breaching health and safety rules which require it to protect the public. Judge Richard Henriques says “No explanation has been forthcoming other than a breakdown in communication. It’s been clear from the evidence that the surveillance team never positively identified Mr. De Menezes as a suspect.” The force is fined £175,000 and ordered to pay legal costs of £385,000. No individual officers are punished over the shooting, the Crown Prosecution Service having decided last year there was insufficient evidence to charge any individual with crimes. Police Chief Sir Ian Blair faces calls to resign, including from the opposition Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties. He is however supported by Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Interior Minister Jacqui Smith says “The Commissioner and the Metropolitan Police remain in the forefront of the fight against crime and terrorism. They have my full confidence and our thanks and support in the difficult job that they do.” Blair says the conviction does not represent “systemic failures” in the police force and that he will not quit over events “of a single day in extraordinary circumstances.” The de Menezes family’s representatives say they are pleased at the conviction but call for an open inquest at which they could present evidence, and for manslaughter charges to be brought against individual officers. [Reuters, 11/1/2007] A week later, renewed calls for Blair’s resignation come from the Independent Police Complaints Commission, who find he was responsible for “avoidable difficulty” following the killing of de Menezes. The report reveals that prosecutors considered and rejected murder charges against the two officers who fired the fatal shots, as well as charges of gross negligence against Assistant Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick, who was in charge of the operation. IPCC chairman Nick Hardwick says “Very serious mistakes were made that could and should have been avoided. But we have to take the utmost care before singling out any individual for blame.” The report highlights a series of failings, including poor communication between officers and Blair’s initial attempts to block inquiries into the shooting. [Irish Times, 11/8/2007]
Entity Tags: Nick Hardwick, Richard Henriques, Mark Whitby, Tony Blair, Ken Livingstone, Metropolitan Police Service, Jacqui Smith, Cressida Dick, Gordon Brown, Jean Charles de Menezes, Independent Police Complaints Commission, Ian Blair
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
Abdul Koyar and Abdul Kahar. [Source: Reuters]Acting on intelligence indicating the construction of a chemical device, police carry out an armed raid which leads to a shooting and two arrests in Forest Gate, east London. The shot suspect, Abdul Kahar, is taken to hospital while his brother, Abdul Koyar, is held at a local police station. Sources reveal that intelligence indicated the presence of a “viable” chemical weapon in the house that was capable of producing hundreds of casualties. Deputy Assistance Commissioner Peter Clarke, head of the Metropolitan Police anti-terror unit, describes the intelligence as “specific.” An air exclusion zone is established at an altitude of 2,500 feet above the site and police in bio-chemical suits and gas masks conduct the search. This search of the home fails to turn up any threat, as do searches of where the men work. [BBC, 6/3/2006] The raid, which cost more than $4 million, fails to find the suspected chemical bomb. Scotland Yard justifies the raid as necessary to determine the validity of the intelligence. The raid causes heavy tension between law enforcement and the Bangladeshi Muslim community of Forest Gate. Overtime pay for the more than 200 officers used in the raid amounts to $1.7 million and $.7 million is spent on “non-pay costs” such as catering and the erection of road barriers. The men are subsequently released without charge. [The Telegraph, 10/3/2006]
US and British counterterrorism officials argue over whether to arrest a group of Islamic extremists plotting to blow up airliners over the Atlantic in a Bojinka-style plot using liquid bombs (see August 10, 2006). [Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 234-7; MSNBC, 8/14/2006] Surveillance of the plotters is a British operation, but the US is kept fully informed and even President Bush is personally briefed by British Prime Minister Tony Blair on July 28. [Times (London), 9/8/2009; Times (London), 9/8/2009] Andy Hayman, assistant commissioner for specialist operations in the Metropolitan Police, will write in 2009: “Fearful for the safety of American lives, the US authorities had been getting edgy, seeking reassurance that this was not going to slip through our hands. We moved from having congenial conversations to eyeball-to-eyeball confrontations.” [Times (London), 9/8/2009] In the end, a senior CIA official travels to Pakistan. There he induces the local authorities to arrest one of the plotters, Rashid Rauf, who is in that country (see Between July 28 and August 9, 2006), necessitating a wave of arrests in Britain. After the plot is revealed and some of the plotters are arrested, some British officials will complain that the US triggered the arrests too early, saying further investigation could have led to other accomplices. One US official will say that the missed opportunities leading up to 9/11 put US intelligence services more on edge. These charges initially meet with official denials. Frances Townsend, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, says: “[W]e worked together to protect our citizens from harm while ensuring that we gathered as much info as possible to bring the plotters to justice. There was no disagreement between US and [British] officials.” [Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 234-7; MSNBC, 8/14/2006] However, details of the dispute will become undeniably clear after the liquid bomb plotters are found guilty in Britain. [Times (London), 9/8/2009; Times (London), 9/8/2009]
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