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Terrorism Raid Criticized in Britain

January 16, 2003|From Associated Press

LONDON — As police launched an inquiry Wednesday into the stabbing death of a detective during an anti-terrorism raid, British lawmakers said the operation was poorly planned and accused the government of failing to adequately screen asylum-seekers for extremist activities.

Det. Stephen Oake, 40, was killed and four other officers were hurt in Tuesday's raid in Manchester. Police were searching for a suspect linked to the Jan. 5 discovery of the poison ricin in London.

Three North Africans were arrested Tuesday. One was questioned Wednesday about the ricin, another about Oake's death, and the third was handed over to immigration authorities. No traces of ricin were found in the apartment, but police wearing special suits searched nearby flats Wednesday.

In Tuesday's raid, armed officers entered the apartment and were followed by Oake and other unarmed officers of the Special Branch, who began forensic examinations. Because of the nature of the examinations, the suspects were not handcuffed, police said.

An hour into the raid, one suspect broke free from the hold of an officer and ran into the kitchen. He grabbed a knife and stabbed several officers.

Oliver Letwin, law and order spokesman for the main opposition Conservative Party, said the raid "clearly went badly wrong in some respects." He also said there was "ample evidence" of asylum-seekers entering Britain with intent to pursue terrorist activities.

But Home Secretary David Blunkett rejected that criticism, saying the raid showed that safeguards against terrorism were in place but need refining. "We are on top of those who threaten our lives and livelihoods," he said.

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