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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 March, 2003, 13:56 GMT
Police launch anti-terror plan
Armed police
Police will step up security at potential targets

Hundreds of extra police officers have been deployed in London as part of a contingency plan to protect the capital from possible terror attacks as the war on Iraq gets underway.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens said an extra 1,500 police, including some armed officers, would be in London as part of what has been named Operation Calm.

Among the sites getting special attention will be government buildings, train stations and the London Underground.

American schools, possible Jewish or Muslim targets, Territorial Army camps, Canary Wharf and the City will also be the focus of police attention.

Home Secretary David Blunkett said the government was taking "every feasible precautionary measure" to protect Britons at home and abroad from the terrorist threat which "remains real and serious".

He told MPs in a written statement that he would not hesitate to issue a public warning if a specific threat was known.

The announcement follows the launch of dedicated pages on the Home Office website providing information about how to react to a terrorist attack.

No internment

He said the emergency services now have more equipment and trained officers to enable them to respond to a release of chemical, biological and radioactive material, including 360 mobile decontamination units.

Mr Blunkett said he also hoped that race relations in Britain would not be affected by the military action in Iraq.

We have taken very clear steps and action to get rid of problems caused in the manufacture of these suits

He added that he had no plans for a mass internment of Iraqi citizens living in the UK as happened during the Gulf War in 1991.

"We understand that military action in Iraq will have an impact on how some members of our society feel - not least in increasing insecurity," he said.

Mr Blunkett said the government was working with police and other local agencies to ensure that tension levels within communities were monitored on a daily basis.

Reiterating his efforts to reassure the Commons he added: "I state unequivocally that we have taken precautionary measures to deal with the events that we can anticipate.

"We cannot guarantee 100% security but we are preparing for a range of eventualities."

Psychological impact

London Mayor Ken Livingstone said: "There is a huge police and security operation going on, a lot of intelligence gathering.

"We are not anticipating an 11 September type attack on London at all."

The Home Office website advises people to be vigilant and ready to take their own precautions in the event of an attack.

Home Office advice
Be aware and vigilant
Know your staff and suppliers
Take care of financial information
Plan and practise escape plans
Tighten security both at home
It says people should go indoors and listen to the radio for specific instructions.

People are also advised to take "sensible precautions" such as having battery powered torches, radio, ready to eat food, bottled water and blankets close to hand.

The department says there is no need at present to take further measures such as stockpiling food or buying a gas mask.

But the advice has been criticised by one terrorism expert as being in danger of doing "more harm than good" by alarming people.

Terrorism expert Mike Yardley said a lot of people would be frightened by the website announcement.

"The probability is that it will cause more psychological impact and play into the enemies' hands," he said.

The suggested measures would make no difference if an attack involved a large scale device, he said.

The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"Britain's prominent role in the war with Iraq could bring new anti western enemies

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23 Feb 03  |  England

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