Scare raised over “terrorist training camps”

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The Guardian today printed a story raising the urban legend of the “jihad training camp”, which in this case was supposedly based in British national parks. As you might expect when a scare story about terrorism appears on the front page of a national newspaper in the middle of a real terrorist emergency, these camps are not believed to be connected to the “liquid explosive” story:

The revelation of the camps is likely to raise anxiety about the number of potential terrorists in the UK, though laws introduced in April allow prosecutors to seek a life sentence for anyone convicted of the offence. Surveillance teams watching the groups in the Lake District are thought to have gathered evidence to pass on to crown prosecutors. The Guardian knows the precise location of the camps where the group has been monitored in the Lake District, but cannot disclose it. The group, unaware it has been under surveillance, was not undergoing weapons or explosives training. However, police believe they have clear evidence the men were preparing a mission of some sort, not enjoying a camping holiday. The surveillance is thought to have been by detectives from Scotland Yard’s antiterrorism branch; security sources in London confirmed they were aware of it.

Since the paper cannot tell us where the camp was located or even the name of the group involved, I can’t come out and tell the world that this is not a terrorist training camp at all, but what I can say is that Muslim camping trips to national parks have been a fixture for years. I’ve seen advertisements for them on mosque noticeboards, on websites and on mailing lists which are not connected to any group known to be linked to terrorism or to the ideologies on which it is based. The purpose of most Muslim camps is fun, bonding and education, and it would be a tragedy to see them stopped just because of suspicion about them being used to train terrorists.

(By the way: the Guardian on Saturday printed a story which employed the “irrelevant scare fact” tactic: this story about some of the men arrested in the “liquid explosive” enquiry, which has this idiotic paragraph:

His friend Mohammed, who declined to give his full name, revealed that Waheed and he would travel to Islamic camps run by Tablighi Jamaat, an Islamic missionary group whose UK base is in Dewsbury, west Yorkshire, the home of one of the July 7 bombers, Mohammed Siddique Khan.

As is well-known, there are thousands of Muslims in Dewsbury and the Tablighi Jama’at movement referred to is overwhelmingly involved in religious preaching, not politicking. Not all the Muslims there are TJ, by the way. Yet they choose to cast suspicion over a whole town’s Muslim population just because one of them, under outside influence, became a terrorist.)

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