Sat, Feb 03, 2007 - Page 6 News List

UK's Met police to bolster security for Muslim officers

THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

Britain's biggest police force is to consider extra security measures to protect its Muslim officers after an alleged plot to kidnap and behead a Muslim soldier was foiled. Several officers in London's Met-ropolitan police (the Met) have raised fears that they could be the next target of the alleged new jihadist tactic.

Magistrates in Coventry on Thursday night granted police an extra seven days to question nine men arrested in Birmingham on suspicion of preparing for a kidnap and execution plot apparently inspired by footage of Iraqi murders posted on the Internet. A man alleged to have been an intended victim is in protective police custody.

Muslim soldiers were given security advice but on Thursday the Association of Muslim Police Officers was in urgent talks with Met police chiefs and the force is expected to at least carry out an urgent risk assessment of the dangers Muslim officers face in their duties. Several say they have been threatened by Islamic extremists. Last year one Muslim officer asked to be moved from guarding the Israeli embassy.

"Some of our members have expressed concerns about their safety and welfare since the events in Birmingham. We've brought this issue about the safety of Muslim officers to the attention of the Metropolitan police service." said Superintendent Del Babu, chair of the Association of Muslim Police Officers.

"We are aware that uniformed Muslim police officers have been confronted by Islamic extremists and threatened. We want the MPS [members of parliament] to ensure there is sufficient support for Muslim officers if issues arise about their safety and welfare. We do not have the intelligence or understand the veracity of the intelligence about the events in Birmingham," he said.

Armed police stood guard for Thursday's court appearances in Coventry of the eight of the men arrested in raids early on Wed-nesday and a ninth was seized on a motorway later that day. West Midlands police had to seek an extension hold them beyond 48 hours. It is understood that three of the men attended in person, the rest chose not to go to court.

Those arrested include a teacher, a businessman, a shop assistant and the owner of a pizza takeaway.

Heavy police presences remained in Jackson Road, Alum Rock, east of the city center, where one of those arrested, Amjad M ahmood, 29, lived and worked in the corner shop.

In the areas of the arrests, police handed out about 5,000 leaflets in English, Urdu, Bengali, Punjabi and Hindi giving details of the raids and a confidential anti-terrorist hotline number.

"We want to reassure you that the police are not targeting communities or faiths but suspected criminals. Our role is to protect, reassure and support all communities. Our message to you is to be patient and vigilant," the leaflet says.

It says hate crime will not be tolerated and asks any victims to come forward.

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