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12 February 2003


A large security operation was mounted at London's Heathrow airport on 11 February involving police and military personnel, the latter patrolling terminals in armoured vehicles.

A Scotland Yard press statement issued on the day noted that "The current strengthening of security is precautionary and is related to action being taken in other countries and the possibility that the end of the religious festival of Eid may erroneously be used by Al Qaida and associated networks to mount attacks".

The British Muslim umbrella body, The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has objected to the reference to Eid in such a context and called it 'irresponsible' - Eid was an occasion associated with prayer, unity and dignity of mankind. The MCB's inference is that the wording of the Yard's statement would fuel Islamophobia and make the Muslim community feel isolated and vulnerable to hate attacks from right-wing gangs.

This incident however is further evidence of the politicisation of UK's intelligence community, in a manner similar to the 1980s when Prime Minister Thatcher put pressure on the security agencies to incriminate sections of the trade union movement. It has emerged that on 11 February Prime Minister Tony Blair "personally authorised" the high profile operation. It has been suggested in the media that it would gain him some support, at a time of growing public doubt and disquiet on whether his Iraq policies are serving British interests.

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