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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 March, 2004, 14:54 GMT
Tight-lipped Tipton buttons up
By Ben Jeffrey
BBC News Online, in Tipton

Ask the people of Tipton what they think about the expected return of the town's three absent sons and their reaction is likely to be as cold as the weather.

Tipton Town Centre
The town's Asian community appears to be keeping a low profile
The town centre is quiet on Thursday morning as residents wake up to the news that Shafiq Rasul, 26, Asif Iqbal, 22, and Ruhal Ahmed, 22, have been freed from police custody in London.

The liveliest location in Tipton is on Bath Road outside the family home of Mr Ahmed.

A throng of journalists shiver in the cold as they wait under the watchful eye of the police for any signs of life inside the home.

In the town's High Street, only a few local people out and about are prepared to talk about their feelings.

'Fed up'

One of the few willing to be named is Pauline Hodgetts, who was made Tiptonian of the Year in November for her work in the community.

She speaks of the focus on the small West Midlands town.

"I'm getting a bit fed up of it really because our town, I think, is fabulous.
Ruhal Ahmed and Shafiq Rasul
The men are not expected to return to Tipton for some time

"We have really got good community spirit in this town, probably more so than any other town in Great Britain."

But not everyone in Tipton welcomes the former Camp Delta detainees with a sense of community spirit.

One man tells me he does not think the trio should ever have been freed by the Americans using language that is overtly racist.

Overnight an effigy was hung up in Tipton High Street thought to have been dressed in an orange boiler suit similar to those worn by Guantanamo Bay detainees.

West Midlands Police issued a warning that officers would take action against anyone responsible for inciting racial hatred.

Private reunion

The police are certainly keeping a visible presence on the streets.

They almost outnumber members of the town's Asian community, who appear to be keeping a low profile.

The families of the three men are maintaining their near media silence. Members of the Ahmed family say nothing to reporters as they leave their Bath Road home.

West Bromwich West MP Adrian Bailey says: "The families have arranged accommodation for the men so that they can all be reunited in private.

"Their lawyers will also join them at this address.

"I can understand why they want to keep out of the limelight as there is a lot of press attention in the area where they live."

And so Tipton is still waiting to see when - or even if - the three will return to the town where they grew up.


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