British Intelligence Units To Track Muslims Across Britain: Report

LONDON – The British government is planning to set up special intelligence units to monitor Muslims nationwide to better detect extremists and thwart eventual attacks, a newspaper reported. The Muslim Contact Units, staffed by London’s Metropolitan Police Special Branch officers, will be established in areas including Yorkshire, northwest England and parts of the Midlands, the Guardian reported. “Deep knowledge of Muslim communities is rare in the service,” a senior police officer with knowledge of the scheme told the Guardian. “If you are going to understand who is extreme and who is dangerous, which are different (ideas), you have to understand the community,” the officer was quoted as saying “Unless you know the subject well and what they are saying, often in Arabic or Urdu, and what the context is, you are not going to get a feel for it,” the source said. He stressed that the squads would be open about their work. “It is not about spying.” The police and Home Office said a Muslim Contact Unit operating in London has already helped thwart extremist attempts to recruit young British Muslims to violent jihad, by working with Islamic communities, the Guardian said. The establishment of the special units is one of the first concrete counter-terrorist measure to emerge after the July 7 London bombings on three subway trains and one bus that claimed the lives of 56 people. Prime Minister Tony Blair on Tuesday met moderate British Muslim leaders and agreed on a taskforce to produce measures to tackle extremism. The units will not only gather intelligence on extremist activity but also help protect Muslim communities from abuse and attacks, the Guardian said. Any leads on extremists can be passed to the security services or acted upon by police. Plans to expand the Muslim Contact Units are expected to get final approval and funding soon from ministers, it added.