English: Photograph of the Zhawar Kili Al-Badr Camp (West), Afghanistan, used by Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen and Gen. Henry H. Shelton, U.S. Army, chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, to brief reporters in the Pentagon on the U.S. military strike on a chemical weapons plant in Sudan and terrorist training camps in Afghanistan on Aug. 20, 1998. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Date – 29th January 2014
By – Andrew Staniforth – Police Oracle
Officers need to understand the law in order to help keep their communities safe, writes Andrew Staniforth.
Over recent years the police and intelligence agencies have increasingly focused upon terrorist training camps. It is important for police officers to understand what may constitute such a place – at home or overseas – to ensure they are keeping their communities safe from contemporary terrorist activity.
On one level, terrorist training facilities can relate to camps in the mountainous border regions of Pakistan or Afghanistan. They may also be located within Iraq, or more recently in Syria, where individuals attend from all over the world to join rebel groups and fight for their chosen cause. These camps are located in secure locations, they are lightweight, very mobile and often move around to avoid identification and capture.
On another level, terrorist training camps may relate to an outward bound centre or paintballing facility located in the UK, where terrorist organisations use the cover of legitimate businesses to conduct training to develop and improve their capabilities, and more worryingly, progress the recruitment and radicalisation of vulnerable British citizens.
During 2005, the police and MI5 embarked upon a two-year terrorist training camp investigation codenamed ‘Operation Overamp’. The major covert terrorist investigation focused upon Attila Ahmet (43) from Bromley, Kent and Mohammed Hamid (50) of Hackney, East London.
Andy Hayman, then Assistant Commissioner of Specialist Operations at the Metropolitan Police, revealed that Hamid was a “veteran of Pakistan military camps who called himself ‘Osama bin London’”, going on to describe Ahmet as “an associate of the jailed preacher Abu Hamza.”
Initial intelligence efforts by M15 indicated that the training camps under surveillance were not ‘soft-touch’ camps but were a cover for terrorist activity. To progress the covert investigation of Overamp, the police and MI5 mounted intrusive surveillance operations and deployed an undercover officer who was able successfully to infiltrate the terrorist group. This provided excellent coverage of the activities of Hamid and Ahmet which later led to their arrest for terrorism offences.
The complex covert techniques deployed to progress Overamp provided unique challenges for investigators and prosecutors. Deborah Walsh, then Deputy Head of the Crown Prosecution Service Counter Terrorism Division, revealed: “Operation Overamp was the first ‘terrorist training’ prosecution for offences contrary to sections 6 and 8 of the Terrorism Act 2006.
Dr Andrew Stanforth is Senior Research Fellow, Centre of Excellence in Terrorism, Resilience, Intelligence & Organised Crime Research (CENTRIC)