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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 June 2006, 19:31 GMT 20:31 UK
Community reacts to terror raid
By Alexis Akwagyiram
BBC News

Farhana Pandor and her son
Farhana Pandor said an apology was needed if no device was found

Police are questioning two brothers arrested in an anti-terror raid and are searching an east London house for a chemical device.

But, as the search fails to yield any results, how has the local Muslim community reacted to the investigation?

"I'm angry - very angry," says Farhana Pandor.

"They haven't found anything and a man has been shot. He's lucky to be alive - it's ridiculous."

On a sunny day in Forest Gate, east London, the young woman's mood seems to darken as she considers the police's handling of a terror raid in a neighbouring street just days before.

Her anger relates to the arrest of Mohammed Abdulkahar, 23, and his 20-year-old brother, Abul Koyair.

The pair are suspected of being involved in a terrorist plot, which they deny. Mr Abdulkahar has been treated after being shot in the shoulder during the raid on Friday morning.

Entry to Lansdown Road, where the raid was carried out, remains barred by a police cordon.

Mrs Pandor, 23, is part of a large Muslim community in a multicultural area where men and women in traditional Islamic dress mingle with people of all hues and shapes, against a backdrop of buildings draped in England flags.

If the police hadn't reacted to the information they had, we would have criticised them if anything had happened
Rakesh Mahandru

But there have been warnings that the latest police operation, and the lack of information in its aftermath, could cause schisms in an area which locals say is generally friendly and united.

The new leader of the Muslim Council of Britain, Muhammad Abdul Bari, has warned that trust between the Muslim community and police could be damaged in the wake of last Friday's raid.

He has urged police to give a "clear picture" of the operation because people wanted details about the investigation.

"People want to know what exactly happened and about the intelligence - is it genuine information, is it flawed - these are the questions have to answer as soon as possible."

This is a point that is echoed by Mrs Pandoor.

"I understand that they have intelligence and have to act on it, but it is the way the police have gone about it that makes me angry," she says.

"There should be an official apology if they don't find anything."

'Taking advantage'?

However, she is keen to point out that the investigation will have been "justified" if the search eventually supported the intelligence information that prompted the raid.

The mother-of-one says the raid is merely a high profile example of a pattern of behaviour shown towards members of her community by police officers.

By way of example, she shares an anecdote of police forcing their way into a friend's home only to later find they were at the wrong address.

She says there was no apology, claiming that such treatment is contributing to a growing sense of resentment among friends and relatives.

These feelings are shared by 19-year-old Omar Khan, a student at East Ham College, London.

With a nonchalant shrug of his shoulders, he says he is resigned to the fact that he may arouse suspicion among police officers.

The student claims he is increasingly stopped and searched, claiming that officers are "taking advantage" of security fears about Islamic extremists.

Saif Kayani
Saif Kayani said he understood the police had a 'tough job'

"I feel as if I'm being looked at as a criminal," he concludes with a final, weary, shrug.

The teenager's palpable frustration, and that of other young Muslims, is of great concern for Saif Kayani.

Mr Kayani, who has two teenage children, says he fears for the future.

The combination of "hysterical" media reporting of terror raids and the approach taken by police means that Muslims are being demonised because of "one or two bad apples", he says.

"There are bad people in every community, not just Muslim ones," he says.

The shopkeeper from Tottenham, north London, says suspicion of young Muslims "breeds resentment", and only encourages communities to isolate themselves from wider society.

Mr Kayani also argues that ethnic minority youngsters - such as Afro-Caribbean and Turkish people - are often unfairly targeted by police.

"This treatment causes people to rebel and creates problems," he says.

'Tough job'

Assistant Commissioner Andy Hayman has stressed that there was "no choice" but to act on the intelligence they had received and carry out the raid.

Police said "specific intelligence" had prompted them to raid the house to search for a chemical device - which they have yet to find.

Mr Kayani admits that he sympathises for the position the police are in.

"It can't be easy. It's a tough job and I wouldn't like to do it myself," he says.

The shopkeeper is not alone in expressing sympathy for the position in which the police find themselves as their search continues.

Rakesh Mahandru, 19, who is a Hindu, believes patience must be exercised while the investigation is conducted.

"If the police hadn't reacted to the information they had, we would have criticised them if anything had happened. They had to do if they had information - they had to follow up on it.

"At the same time we are criticising the police for not stopping the 7 July attacks from happening."




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