BBC News – 2009-02-21 23:04:30
Africa Border Opens for Gaza Aid
(February 21, 2009) — The border between Morocco and Algeria, closed for almost 15 years, has been temporarily reopened for an aid convoy heading towards the Gaza Strip. The convoy of 99 vehicles, which left from the UK loaded with medicine, food, clothes and toys, crossed into Algeria near the Moroccan town of Oujda.
The frontier was shut in 1994 after Morocco accused Algeria of involvement in an attack on a hotel in Marrakech.
The convoy is due to cross from Egypt to Gaza in early March. It left London last week, led by British member of parliament George Galloway. Its 5,000-mile route also includes France, Spain, Tunisia, and Libya.
The Gaza Strip is facing a humanitarian crisis following Israel’s recent three-week offensive.
Though the Morocco-Algeria crossing was opened for the convoy, there is little sign ordinary people will be able to travel overland between Morocco and Algeria any time soon, the BBC’s James Copnall reports from the Moroccan capital, Rabat.
Diplomatic relations between the two countries have long been poor, and disagreements are currently focused on the disputed territory of the Western Sahara. Morocco considers the region its own, while Algeria supports the Polisario Front independence movement.
The border closure also has economic consequences, our correspondent says. According to some estimates, the Maghreb has the lowest rate of internal trade of any region in the world.
Morocco recently asked for the border to be reopened, but Algeria has yet to agree.
© BBC MMIX
Gaza Vehicles Released by Police
LONODON (February 16, 2009) — Three vehicles seized as they travelled to join a Gaza aid convoy have been released by counter-terrorism officers. The two vans and an ambulance were travelling to London to join the convoy when they were stopped on the M65 near Preston, Lancashire, on Friday.
Nine men were arrested as part of an ongoing intelligence-led investigation. Three men remain in custody. Police said the parcels had been “thoroughly checked” and could “continue on to their destination.”
A Lancashire Police spokesman said: “The cargo from these vehicles has been thoroughly checked by search officers who have worked as quickly as they can to ensure that the parcels can now be released and continue on to their destination. “We appreciate that this has been a cause of concern for some people which is why we have seen it as our number one priority to release them.
“Both Lancashire Constabulary and the North West Counter Terrorism Unit believe strongly that people should be allowed to express and pursue their views and beliefs openly, providing this is done safely and within the law.
“The arrests made on Friday evening were in no way aimed at preventing this and were the culmination of an ongoing intelligence-led investigation.”
Police have been granted an extension to question the men, aged 26, 29 and 36, until Thursday.
A number of homes in Burnley continue to be searched as part of the operation.
The convoy carrying medicine, clothing and shoeboxes of toys set off from the capital on Saturday accompanied by Respect party MP George Galloway.
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No Charges for Gaza Convoy Trio
LONDON (February 19, 2009) — Three men arrested by counter-terrorism officers as they travelled to join a Gaza aid convoy have been released without charge. Two vans and an ambulance were travelling to London when they were stopped on the M65 near Preston, Lancashire, on Friday.
The vehicles were released to continue their journey earlier this week. Three men, aged 26, 29 and 36, were released without charge after extended questioning by officers. They were among nine arrested – the other six were released at the weekend.
Several homes in Burnley were searched as part of what police said was an “intelligence-led operation”.
Lancashire’s Assistant Chief Constable Andy Cooke, said: “Lancashire Constabulary, with the support of the North West Counter Terrorism Branch, will robustly investigate any information that is passed to us about possible terrorist activity and if necessary take action.
“Terrorism affects us all and protecting the safety of the public is of paramount importance. Security for our communities is our highest priority and sometimes we have to make arrests. We will continue to do our utmost to help people recognise signs of suspicious behaviour so that they, in turn, can help defeat terrorism.”
The convoy carrying medicine, clothing and shoeboxes of toys set off from London on Saturday accompanied by Respect party MP George Galloway.
© BBC MMIX
Anti-terror Police Question Three
LONDON (February 15, 2009) — Detectives are to continue questioning three men arrested on the M65 in Lancashire in a counter-terrorism operation. Searches are also underway at five properties in Burnley Three vehicles also seized on Friday night were to join a convoy taking £1m in aid to Gaza.
Nine men were originally arrested but six were later released. The remaining three in custody are aged 26, 29 and 36, police said. The arrests were carried out as part of a joint operation by Lancashire Constabulary and the North West Counter Terrorism Unit.
The houses being searched are understood to be on Gordon Street, Robinson Street and Clive Street, with the other two on Rectory Road.
Ch Supt Neil Smith, divisional commander for Pennine Division, said officers were “working hard to ensure everyone is kept up to date with as much information as we can give. We will endeavour to carry out any searches as quickly as possible to minimise the impact on the area concerned,” he said.
Meanwhile a Lancashire Constabulary spokeswoman said the cargo from the seized vehicles was being thoroughly checked. She said search officers were “working as quickly as they can to ensure that the parcels can be released and continue on to their destination”.
More than 100 vehicles are taking aid such as medicines, tools, clothes and blankets to Gaza.
© BBC MMIX
Houses Searched by Terror Police
(February 14, 2009) — Five houses are being searched in Burnley after nine men were arrested by counter-terrorism police. The nine were arrested when several vehicles were stopped on the M65 near Preston on Friday night, but six were later released without charge.
The arrests were made in a joint operation between Lancashire Police and the North West Counter Terrorism Unit. Police have confirmed the vehicles were meant to be part of the Gaza aid convoy which left London earlier.
More than 100 vehicles are taking more than £1m worth of aid, including trucks full of medicines, tools, clothes, blankets and shoe boxes as well as gifts for children. The mission is organised by umbrella body Viva Palestina and backed by Muslim groups.
Lancashire Police said officers were in the Burnley area where the searches were being carried out and residents living nearby would be kept informed. The houses being searched are understood to be on Gordon Street, Robinson Street and Clive Street, and two are on Rectory Road. Two adjacent end-of-terrace houses on Rectory Road and the vehicles parked outside them were cordoned off with police tape as officers patrolled the street on Saturday. A white Nissan Micra nearby was also surrounded by police tape.
Ch Supt Neil Smith, Divisional Commander for Pennine Division, said: “This is a very sensitive time for all our communities and we are working hard to ensure everyone is kept up to date with as much information as we can give. We will endeavour to carry out any searches as quickly as possible to minimise impact on the area concerned. However, inquiries of this nature are complex and may take time to resolve.
“I would like to thank local residents affected by these searches for their cooperation and ask that they remain patient. We will ensure people are kept updated in relation to the investigation as and when we can.”
Three men aged 26, 29 and 36 are still being questioned by police following Friday’s arrests. The men were stopped as they travelled westbound on the M65 near junction one at about 2100 GMT.
It is understood the operation is connected to possible terrorist offences overseas and not in the UK. The motorway was closed while several vehicles they were traveling in were seized.
© BBC MMIX
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