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Parliamentary and Political Monitoring Report w/c 21st March 2016

By DPF Admin29th March 2016August 6th, 2019Area Updates, Latest News, Northern Updates, Southern Updates

This week’s main security and defence news has been the terrorist attacks in Brussels, which killed at least 31 people and left over 200 injured on Tuesday morning. The attacks were claimed by the Islamic State. The BBC reports that twin blasts struck the main terminal of Zaventem international airport, in the north-east of the city. Another explosion hit the Maelbeek metro station in the city centre, close to several European Union institutions.

They came four days after the capture in Brussels of Salah Abdeslam, the main suspect in the jihadist attacks in Paris on 13 November 2015.

Two of the men who carried out the attacks have been named by Belgian media as brothers Khalid and Brahim el-Bakraoui – both known to police. Both died in process of carrying out their attacks. A third perpetrator, Najim Laachraoui – who was also thought to be the bombmaker behind the Paris attacks last November – is currently on the run. The British government is warning Britons against all but essential travel to Brussels in the wake of the bomb attacks. Two British nationals were among the injured.

David Cameron condemned the attacks and warned of “a very real terror threat” across Europe. Specialist police from the UK have been sent to Brussels to help with the investigation. The Daily Telegraph reports that security has been stepped up at British airports after a wave of bombings in Brussels amid fears of similar attacks in the UK. St Pancras International train station will see increased police patrols as will other areas of the capital’s transport network. The Independent reports that Theresa May, the Home Secretary, has set out the steps the Government is taking to tighten security at home amid heightened terror fears at home and abroad. Facing questions from Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham, she confirmed that a £34m investment to increase the capacity of armed police units able to respond to a Paris-style attack in the UK would also see forces outside London benefit, following concerns about cuts to capacity in Greater Manchester and Merseyside.

London ‘preparing to handle up to ten terrorist attacks at once’

MoD admits it does not know how much new Trident system will cost

Defence Secretary voices concern over ISIS obtaining nuclear weapons

Inquiry clears soldier of Iraq killing

Claim that soldiers were forced to rape each other

Deepcut inquest continues

London ‘preparing to handle up to ten terrorist attacks at once’

The Independent reports that police in London have reportedly been ordered to prepare for as many as 10 terror attacks happening at once across the capital, in a dramatic escalation of the capital’s readiness in the wake of the Paris shootings. Quoting a Government minister with knowledge of the proposals for enhanced security, the newspaper reported that police had made cracking down on firearms a top priority. It comes after an alleged gang of gunrunners appeared in court charged with smuggling an “evil” shipment of 22 Czech-made assault rifles and nine sub-machine guns into Britain from Eastern Europe.

The National Crime Agency (NCA), which was critical in the operation to arrest the suspects in that case, has reportedly been given new orders amid fears of a Paris-style attack involving terrorists returning from Syria using heavy weaponry. The unnamed minister was quoted as saying: “We used to plan for three simultaneous attacks but Paris has shown that you need to be ready for more than that. We are ready if someone tries with seven, eight, nine, ten.”

Army regiments outside London are also reportedly on standby to help the capital in the event of a major coordinated incident.

The above article was published the day before the attacks in Belgium, and further demonstrates that a major attack in London is generally considered to be a case of ‘when’, not ‘if’.

MoD admits it does not know how much new Trident system will cost

The Sun reports that the MoD has admitted that it has no idea how much replacing Trident will cost. The Government has put a £31billion price tag on replacing the UK’s fleet of ageing subs, which serve as the UK’s nuclear deterrent. But some estimates have costs spiraling as high £167billion. In a response to a freedom of information request, MoD officials demanded a “safe space” away from the public’s prying eyes to explore “policy options”.

“The department does not hold a cost forecast for the whole capability,” the MoD said in response to the request on the price of replacing Trident over 30 years.  “The Government needs a safe space away from the public gaze to allow it to consider policy options for delivering the deterrent in the most cost-effective way, unfettered from public comment about the affordability of particular policy options, some of which many not be at a mature stage of development”, it added.

Defence Secretary voices concern over ISIS obtaining nuclear weapons

The Independent reports that the prospect of ISIS or another terror group with the “technical know-how” obtaining nuclear weapons is “obviously a concern”, the Defence Secretary has said, as the Government considered its response to the deadly terror attacks in Brussels. Michael Fallon stressed the importance of ensuring terror groups could not “get their hands on nuclear weapons” and said the UK was doing its part by maintaining strict export controls on the necessary technology.

World powers are set to meet in Washington DC later this month for talks on preventing nuclear terrorism – the fourth such summit since 2010. In its Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015, the Government said the risk of terrorists obtaining nuclear, chemical or biological weapons may increase in the coming years.

Inquiry clears soldier of Iraq killing

The Daily Mail reports that a decorated soldier was cleared of shooting dead an Iraqi civilian for the third time this week. Former sergeant Richard Catterall killed a suspected insurgent he believed was carrying an AK-47 and was about to shoot his comrades in Basra in 2003. Two inquiries cleared the father of two of unlawfully killing Muhammad Salim, but then he faced a further investigation when the man’s family tried to get compensation through the law firm Public Interest Lawyers.

The inquiry concluded that Muhammad Salim was shot dead in his house after British soldiers had been misled by false intelligence from one of their own interpreters involved in a tribal feud. The reports say that the competing tribes then tried to cover up the dispute to pin all the blame on the British soldiers and lied about the dead man being unarmed.

Two convicted over moped drive-by London terror plot

The Guardian reports that two university students have been convicted of wanting to kill on London’s streets in the name of ISIS in what counter-terrorism officials believe was the most significant jihadi plot targeting Britain in a decade. Police, soldiers and civilians were the intended targets of the conspiracy, with a moped being used to stage drive-by killings after the terrorists had gained a gun, silencer and ammunition from a London-based criminal. Ringleader Tarik Hassane, 22, pleaded guilty to having directed others in the plot through encrypted social media programs, while he was a medical student. His friend Suhaib Majeed, 21, a physics student at King’s College London and a prize-winning maths student, was convicted of the plot by a jury at the Old Bailey.

Hassane is suspected of associating with Mohammed Emwazi, who gained worldwide notoriety as Isis’s “Jihadi John”. They grew up in the same area and went to the same mosque in west London. Two other men were convicted of firearms offences, for sourcing and supplying the firearm. But Nyall Hamlett, 25, and Nathan Cuffy, 26, were acquitted of involvement in the terror plot or knowing what Majeed or Hassane were really intending.

Claim that soldiers were forced to rape each other

The Daily Telegraph reports that members of the Queen’s Guard have been investigated over claims that two young soldiers were forced to rape each other in a humiliating “beasting”. Two male recruits were allegedly ordered to perform a series of degrading sex acts while fellow guardsman watched and recorded the attack on mobile phones. The footage was circulated around Pirbright Barracks in Surrey and was even posted on Facebook, it has been claimed.

An Army spokesperson said: “We can confirm an incident did take place and details were referred to the Royal Military Police for an initial investigation. No allegations of coercive or criminal behaviour were made. However this behaviour is unacceptable and administrative action was taken against those present, with disciplinary measures taken against one individual.”

Deepcut inquest continues

The BBC reports that a former troop sergeant did not order a young recruit who died at Deepcut barracks in Surrey to meet a fellow soldier for sex, an inquest heard. The hearing into the death of Pte Cheryl James has previously heard from Pte Mark Beards that former sergeant Andrew Gavaghan gave the order. But Mr Gavaghan told the inquest it did not happen because he did not meet Pte James until the morning she died. She was found dead with a bullet wound to the head on 27 November 1995. The 18-year-old from Llangollen, Denbighshire, was one of four recruits to die at the base in seven years.

The inquest at Woking Coroner's Court heard of a culture of alcohol and sex at the barracks. Inquest counsel Bridget Dolan said a litter sweep of the grounds found 800 condoms in a year. Mr Gavaghan said recruits were told sex was “discouraged” and against the rules but it was “difficult to police”. “I'm not saying it was not going on but it was rare for people to be caught,” he added. The inquest continues.

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