Report: British police justified in 'aggressive' raid, but should apologize
Scotland Yard was justified in its June 2006 antiterrorist raid of innocent families in the Forest Gate area of London, but should apologize to the families for its actions, Britain's Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) says in a newly released report.
The Guardian reports that the IPCC said the Metropolitan Police owes the families an apology for their "very aggressive" tactics. The commission also said that the police should not be disciplined, however.
Today, the IPCC commissioner Deborah Glass, said: "I know that some people will feel very strongly that individual officers should be disciplined.
"However, after much thought, I have concluded that the level of force has to be judged in the light of the officers' beliefs that they were facing an extreme lethal threat not just to themselves but to the public and to the occupants of the houses themselves.
"None of this should minimize the deep and understandable sense of grievance felt by all those affected on what must have been a terrifying experience ... despite the small number of complaints upheld, there are very important lessons to be learned from this case."
The Daily Telegraph reports that the police carried out the raid after intelligence wrongly suggested that the occupants of two houses in Forest Gate area of London were preparing a chemical bomb.
The Times of London said that on the June day in question "Fifteen officers, armed with machine guns and pistols and dressed in three layers of protective clothing" smashed their way into the two houses.
During the raid, the 11 occupants of the houses, including a baby, were shaken from their beds and Mohammed Abdul Kahar was shot at close range in the shoulder. Another man was thumped in the head. A separate IPCC inquiry found that Mr. Kahar had been shot by accident as he tussled with an armed officer who he believed was a robber.
A further 250 police officers provided back-up as Mr. Kahar, 23 at the time, and his brother, Abul Koyair, 20, were arrested and held for a week at Paddington Green police station, where terrorist suspects are brought for questioning. They were later released without charge to a storm of protest from Forest Gate's Muslim community, which complained of the police's heavy-handed tactics.
The BBC reports that the IPCC felt that, while the police were justified in carrying out the original raid, they should have changed their response and their tactics much sooner after they were in control of the situation. Deputy Assistant Commissioner Alf Hitchcock, of the Metropolitan Police's diversity and citizen focus directorate, however, said he would be happy to reiterate "the three apologies" the force had already made, but he said it was time to just stop apologizing and focus on the need to learn about the lessons of community engagement.
The Daily Telegraph also reports the IPCC's ruling has not helped repair relations between the police and Muslim communities.
Abu Bakr was one of nine men held in Birmingham last week over an alleged plot to kidnap and behead a British Muslim soldier. He was released without charge on Wednesday and made a scathing attack on the police and security services.
He said the anti-terrorism laws were designed to target Muslims, adding: "We are feeling the brunt of it all. We are the ones who are being locked up, detained and then told to go back to our lives." ...
He said Britain was now a "police state for Muslims ... It's not a police state for everyone else, because these terror laws are designed specifically for Muslims."
The BBC also reports that the people who were injured in the Forest Gate raid feel let down by the IPCC decision not to charge any police officers, calling it "hogwash."
Hanif Doga, who lived at one of the houses raided and says he was struck on the head with a gun, said: "I could have died from this injury, yet the IPCC dismiss it as a minor head injury and call for no further action.
"I am deeply disappointed at this report – this is belittling proper investigation."