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Association of Retired Senior IPS Officers (ARSIPSO)

This is with reference to my letter No. ARSIPSO/GS-BSD-4/2023 dated. 10/08/2023 on the 4th B.S. Das Memorial Lecture, which had to be rescheduled for unavoidable reasons.

The 4th B.S.Das Memorial Lecture to be delivered by Shri Anil Kumar Sinha, IAS (Retd.), on the subject Disaster Management: Creating Safer Communities, has now been rescheduled for October 14, 2023 as per the following:

Conference Room No. 2, India International Centre, Max Mueller Marg, New Delhi, October 14, 2023 (Saturday)

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Terror bombings on July 21st fortunately did not kill anybody because the bombs did not explode. It could be seen that the bombers on July 21st did not pick on very promising targets. The bomb planted in a bus was virtually empty. However, the bombers have sent a chilling message that bombings and mayhems are going to become a part of Britain’s life for many years.

London police have launched a massive manhunt for the terrorists and their masterminds. It is estimated that nearly 1000 police officers often working 12 hours a day and 7 days a week have been deployed. Some have been withdrawn from important criminal investigations and operations. It is estimated that cost of investigation into the attacks of July 7 and 21 is running into £5,00,000 a day.

During their operation after July 21st police marksmen gunned down one Charles-De-Menzes, a young 27-year electrician from Brazil. He was suspected to be a suicide bomber and shot down by plainclothes men who fired 8 rounds from close range and aimed at his head. The police are now acting under new shooting procedures designed to stop a suicide bomber before he can detonate his charge. Shootings by the police are rare in Britain, as most of the British police officers do not keep firearms and this is now going to change. Normal guidelines for the police at the time of opening fire is that they shoot for incapacitating the threat and that is why police normally target legs and other parts of the body and not the head. But now for incapacitating someone who may turn out to be a suicide bomber instruction of the police is to shoot at the head. The suicide bombers’ brain has to be destroyed “instantly and utterly”. There is always the danger, as has happened in this case, that the police may make mistakes in taking on the spot decisions. In the instant case Menzes was wearing a warm coat in a hot day. Fearing that he might have a bomb beneath his coat, the police opened fire. The Independent Police Complaints Commission of United Kingdom has decided to enquire into the shooting of Menzes and find out if the police procedures are correct and some officers are to be held accountable. However, there is overwhelming public support for the police and their tactics. A You-Gov poll for the Economist shows that the people appreciate the work of the police and support this shoot-to-kill policy. Challenging a suicide bomber to stop may act as an invitation to trigger the bomb so the police had to shoot first. People are also strongly in favour of tighter policing.

Police have arrested 4 suspects in the failed bombings of July 21st. Police investigation is moving with speed, but lots of loose ends remain. Even now investigators do not have a clear understanding of the twin terrorists plots. The police have not so far found any forensic link between July 7 and July 21 bombers. No phone calls or documents or other evidence to tie the two groups together. Further, says a British official, that bombs used on July 7 and July 21 come from different batches of homemade explosives. This means that either the same chemist has made from different batches or more than one chemist is involved. According to counter-terrorism experts of Britain and USA, the two attacks may have been planned independently of each other. One of the bombers arrested in Italy, Osman Hussain, told the Italian investigators that July 21st gang had nothing to do with July 7 cell. This raises the frightening prospect of multiple jihadi cells operating on their own. Investigators are also turning their attention to the support networks of these men and unless these networks are dismantled the fear of further terrorist attacks remain very high.

The bombings also had their impact on life in London. If the objective of the terrorists was to spread fear, they have largely succeeded in doing so. A poll for the “Economist” shows that 90% of the respondents fear that the city will be targeted again and 59% feel that travelling in the capital is becoming increasingly hazardous. A possibility of a third wave of attack remains high and this estimate is based on concrete evidence, intercepted messages and interrogation of the suspects held outside Britain. It could be gathered during the interrogation of one of the suspects Osman that they simply wanted to make a political gesture against the Iraq war but the London police discounted this view and stressed that the second bomb attacks were also aimed at mass murder.

The bomb trail may lead to Pakistan. British investigators want to interrogate Nayeem Noor Khan, a Pakistani arrested in Karachi last year. He was Al-Qaeda’s top communication man. His confession and other nuggets of information collected from his computer led to charges of conspiracy to commit murder and other terrorism offences against 8 men in Britain last August. British officials are also trying to interrogate Zeeshan Siddique a British national arrested with false passport in Pakistan. He had confessed that he was party to a plot to bomb pubs, restaurants and railway stations in Britain.

The very fact that the bomb attacks were launched by homegrown militants and their process of self radicalisation has caused great concern to the police and other security agencies. The self-radicalized youth need not go to training camps but may turn to Internet for bomb recipes and avoid the radar of security services. Sir Ian Blair, London’s Police Chief, hopes that the Britain’s Muslim community will rise and face this challenge and give no support to the terrorists. Britain now needs the support of Muslim community because “it is the community that defeats terrorist and not the police”. However, Muslim youths are feeling exasperated and alienated.
There is an increase of hate crime against Britain’s Muslims. There were nearly 300 hate crimes reported within three weeks after July 7. Many were verbally abused and assaulted. There were also damages to mosques and other properties. Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Tarique Gaffar has said that he had never seen so much anger among young Muslims. This has further exacerbated with the increased use of stop and search and new shoot-to-kill-to-protect policy for dealing with suicide bombers.

Britain now contemplates draconian emergency laws to deal with the threat of terrorism. Indirect incitements to terrorism will also now be an offence. There is likelihood of radical Muslim preachers to be jailed or deported for their extremist propaganda. However there is the danger that more disillusioned Muslim youths will be beguiled by the incendiary propaganda and illegal work of Imams banished by British bureaucracy. Britain is also considering setting up of special secret anti-terror courts to determine how long suspects could be detained without a charge in order to provide a way of meeting requests by the police and security services that detention before the charge should be extended from the current 14 days to three months. The new anti-terror package would include “a new court procedure which would allow a pre-trial process”. Adoption of secret anti-terrorist courts will no doubt mark a serious departure from Britain’s century-old adversarial justice system and will be a regrettable sacrifice of liberty to security.

- Sankar Sen, IPS (Retd.)
Senior Fellow, ISS
Former Director General, National Human Rights Commission
Former Director, National Police Academy

The views and facts stated above are entirely the responsibility of the author and do not reflect the views of this Association in any manner.

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