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Angry families threaten legal action against police over anti-terror raid

The Muslim man shot by officers protests his innocence and accuses them of failing to give a warning

Mark Townsend, Anushka Asthana, Antony Barnett and David Smith

Sunday June 4, 2006

The Observer observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,1789965,00.html

A young Muslim man shot by police on suspicion of involvement in a terrorist chemical plot last night protested his innocence and alleged that police failed to give warning before opening fire.

Solicitors for Mohammed Abdul Kahar and his brother Abul Koyair, who was also seized in a dawn raid on Friday involving 250 police officers, said they denied any wrongdoing.

A family who live next door to the brothers alleged that they were also arrested and assaulted, leaving one man with a head injury and needing hospital treatment. They are considering legal action against the police.

Kahar was shot in the shoulder during the raid in east London as police reportedly searched for a ‘suicide vest’ that would pump out poison gas – a claim questioned by MI5 yesterday. As he remained under armed guard in hospital, his solicitor, Kate Roxburgh, described her client’s account of the shooting: ‘He was woken up about four in the morning by screams from downstairs, got out of bed in his pyjamas obviously unarmed, nothing in his hands and hurrying down the stairs. As he came toward a bend in the stairway, not knowing what was going on downstairs, the police turned the bend up towards him and shot him – and that was without any warning.’

She added: ‘He wasn’t asked to freeze, given any warning and didn’t know the people in his house were police officers until after he was shot. He is lucky still to be alive.’

Julian Young, solicitor for Koyair, said: ‘My client denies any involvement in the commission, preparation or instigation of terrorist offences and has maintained that position from the start.’

Speaking after a closed court hearing in central London, Young said Koyair was due to be interviewed by officers again this morning. He added that Kahar was expected to be released from hospital around lunchtime today and to be taken to Paddington Green high security police station in west London.

He added: ‘The situation is that the district judge has authorised a further period of detention up to Wednesday. If the police have not completed their inquiries by then they must either charge, release on bail, take no further action or apply for a further warrant.’

Kahar was shot as armed officers descended on a family terraced house on Lansdown Road, Forest Gate, in the early hours of Friday. He was later arrested under the Terrorism Act after being treated for the gunshot wound in the Royal London Hospital. Koyair was also held in the raid, which involved police officers, MI5 and biochemical experts.

Yesterday a family detained by police during the raid also denied any involvement in terrorism activity and said it was considering legal action. In a statement, the family, who lived in the terrace adjoining the brothers’ house, said they ‘would like to make it clear that we are completely innocent and in no way involved in any terrorist activity’.

The family, reportedly four adults and an eight-month-old child, said that police had questioned them for 12 hours before releasing them without charge on Friday afternoon. They added in a statement: ‘We would like to express our deep shock and anger at the operation that took place. My family members and I were physically assaulted. I received serious head injuries that required hospital treatment. We are liaising with our legal team on the course of action to take.’

A group representing the family of Jean Charles de Menezes – the innocent Brazilian shot dead by police in the wake of the 7 July terror bombings – waded into the row. Asad Rehman, chairman of the Newham Monitoring Project, an anti-racism organisation, is acting as spokesman for the family, who wish to remain anonymous.

Rehman, who also acts as political adviser to the Respect MP George Galloway and is a vocal critic of the Met Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair – said that the family was considering legal action on the grounds of ‘unlawful entry and assault’ and had enlisted the help of Gareth Peirce, the prominent human rights lawyer who has also worked on the de Menezes case.

A source connected to the de Menezes campaign alleged: ‘The family were assaulted with facial injuries against a woman, and an eight-month-old boy was dragged out into the street.’

Neighbours also registered their anger towards the police, describing how a younger brother in the family was arrested and ‘dragged down the road, put down on the pavement and then plastic sheets were put on him and he was into white overalls’. Others claimed that even the grandmother of the family was led from the home in handcuffs.

A spokesman for Scotland Yard confirmed that, in addition to the suspect who was shot, ‘Two other people went to hospital. One was a woman suffering shock. The other, a man with a head injury.’ He declined to comment further.

As details began to emerge, it seems certain that it began with an original tip-off local informant known to security services as ‘an asset’ suggesting that the brothers, who were under surveillance, were planning an imminent, biological attack on the British mainland.

Intelligence had suggested it was a potentially fatal device that could produce casualty figures in double or even triple figures.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission immediately launched an investigation into the shooting, which will be overseen by Deborah Glass, the IPCC Commissioner for London and the South East.

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