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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 October 2006, 00:24 GMT 01:24 UK
Two terror suspects 'on the run'
Police officer
The government argues public safety is paramount
Two terror suspects put under control orders to restrict their movements have gone on the run.

One is a British man of Pakistani descent who fled through a window of a mental health unit two weeks ago.

He is accused by the authorities of wanting to go to Iraq to fight and had been subject to an order since March.

The other man, an Iraqi, is thought to have been missing for some months. Home Office Minister Tony McNulty said he did not believe the public was at risk.

Asked on BBC Two's Newsnight why the Home Office had not told the public earlier about the suspects' escapes, he said: "I can say very clearly and assure people that the people who needed to know in both cases have known."

Family appeal

He added: "Within the context of the legal framework all that could be done has been done."

A major police investigation is ongoing and it is understood ports and airports have been notified.

In response to suggestions the two suspects could carry out an attack tomorrow, Mr McNulty said: "On balance, I don't think that's the case at all."

The danger of control orders is that they short-circuit due process and keep suspects in a state of limbo
Nick Clegg

Control orders were brought in for cases where people are suspected of being involved in terrorism-related activity, but there is not enough evidence for a criminal prosecution.

When placed under them, terror suspects can be tagged, confined to their homes and banned from communicating with others.

As control orders are said to be reserved for dangerous terror suspects, there will be questions as to why no efforts have been made to notify the public about the missing men before.

The family of the British suspect say they are concerned for his safety and are appealing for his return to fight the allegations against him.

The suspect maintains that he was arrested during a recent visit to Pakistan, held for seven months and tortured by the intelligence services.

His brother told BBC News: "We don't know what to think. We don't know what sort of mind he might be in."

The Iraqi suspect managed to get his curfew conditions relaxed earlier this year before disappearing.

'Extraordinary' case

Mr McNulty, who said that he could not discuss individual cases, also told Newsnight that control orders were the "second best" choice.

"These are solutions forced on us. We have always said these are a second best option," he said.

Shadow Home Secretary David Davis described the case of the suspect missing from the mental health unit as "extraordinary".

He added that it was "hard to understand how this man was allowed to escape, especially while undergoing psychiatric assessment".

Nick Clegg, for the Liberal Democrats, said the case was a "huge embarrassment" for ministers.

He said: "The danger of control orders is that they short-circuit due process and keep suspects in a state of limbo."

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: "Any alleged breach will be dealt with by police on a case-by-case basis and appropriate action taken.

"Every effort is being made by police to ensure no particular community is criminalised or victimised in any way."




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
One escapee's brother speaks about his family's concerns





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