Tue, Jul 10, 2007 - Page 6 News List

UK slow to fight terror: Interpol

NO COOPERATION The Interpol chief said the UK has failed to systematically check visitors' passports against the Interpol's global list of 7 million lost or stolen passports


The head of Interpol said yesterday that Britain has not shared any information from the investigation of three failed car bomb attacks, which he said reflects London's reluctance to join in global efforts to combat terrorism.

"We have received not one name, not one fingerprint, not one telephone number, not one address, nothing, from the UK, about the recent thwarted terrorist attacks," Ronald Noble, Interpol's secretary general, said in an interview with British Broadcasting Corp (BBC) television.

Detectives on three continents are working to piece together details of the failed attacks on two London nightspots and the airport in Glasgow, Scotland.

Police in Australia yesterday asked a judge for more time to question an Indian doctor arrested in Brisbane in connection with the British attacks.

Indian investigators have seized a computer hard drive belonging to the man suspected of ramming a Jeep into the Glasgow airport, a senior police official said yesterday

Two cars packed with gas cylinders and nails were discovered on June 29 in central London. The next day, the flaming Jeep Cherokee smashed into the security barriers at Glasgow airport.

Eight people are in custody as suspects -- seven in Britain and one in Australia. One has been charged: Bilal Abdullah, an Iraqi doctor who was identified as the passenger in the Jeep.

Most of the suspects worked for Britain's health service and come from countries in the Middle East or from India.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said last week that authorities would work to expand a "watch list" of potential terrorists so that authorities in other countries could be warned of possible threats.

Noble said Britain -- like most countries -- has so far failed to take advantage of Interpol's list of 7 million lost or stolen passports. However, he said Britain was now testing systems to access the database and said he hoped that would be working within months.

"I believe it is significant that only 17 out of the 186 member countries currently systematically check the passports of visitors to their countries against a global database that contains 7 million stolen passport numbers," he said.

Switzerland, he said, checks the database 300,000 times per month and typically gets 100 hits on stolen or lost passports.

Britain now checks the database about 30 times a month, and the US use it 80 times per month, he said.

"My view is that the UK's anti-terrorist effort is in the wrong century," Noble said.

"It is not aware of what we are able to do today globally, and they should do more. We don't have one Metropolitan police officer from the anti-terrorist unit assigned to Interpol -- not one. Can you explain to me why that is?" he said.

Britain's Home Office said the Interpol databases were consulted by the Serious Organized Crime Agency (SOCA).

"The UK works closely with the Interpol secretariat and with member states to provide police-to-police cooperation," a Home Office spokesman said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"SOCA, as the UK arm of Interpol, consults Interpol databases and performs searches on behalf of UK law enforcement, in addition to which UK police forces have direct secure access to Interpol databases," the Home Office said.

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