Posts tagged ‘Threat’

July 11, 2011

Religious teaching ‘under threat’

RE teachers say that religious education is being squeezed out of the school curriculum RE teachers say that religious education is being squeezed out of the school curriculum Religious education in schools is under threat, faith leaders have warned.

Leaders representing Christians, Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists said they were “gravely concerned” about the “negative impact” that current government policies were having.

In a letter to the Daily Telegraph they called for RE to be included in the new English Baccalaureate.

The Department for Education (DfE) said the English Baccalaureate “does not stop any school offering RE GCSEs”.

In the letter published in the Telegraph, faith leaders warned that a failure to act would be a “serious flaw” in David Cameron’s Big Society project.

The signatories included the Rev Michael Heaney, president of Churches Together in England, and Farooq Murad, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain.

Undermining RE

They write: “Changes to the role and capacity of local authorities, coupled with the extension of the academies programme, are in danger of undermining the nature and quality of RE.”

“Also, recent policy initiatives in relation to GCSE examinations are already leading to a deterioration in the provision for RE in many secondary schools.”

RE teachers recently warned that religious education could disappear from many secondary schools because of the new English Baccalaureate.

A DfE spokesman said it is compulsory for every student to study RE up to 16, adding that success in RE GCSE “continues to be recognised in the annual GCSE tables, as well as being a valuable qualification in its own right”.

He said: “The English Baccalaureate does not stop any school offering RE GCSEs and we have been clear that pupils should take the GCSEs that are right for them.

Big society

“It is for teachers and parents to help pupils make the right choice. All academies and free schools must offer a broad and balanced curriculum.”

The “Bacc”, which was introduced last December, is a new league table measure which ranks schools according to how many pupils gain grades A*-C in GCSEs in five subject areas: English, maths, a language, science and either geography or history.

A recent survey by the National Association of Teachers of Religious Education (NATRE) found that a quarter of the state-funded schools featured in its research were not teaching RE to pupils aged from 14 to 16.

The faith leaders called on the prime minister to do more to develop “a clear strategy” for the subject.

“Failure to work with faith communities, along with their partner academic and professional associations, would represent a serious flaw in the Big Society project,” they write.

July 11, 2011

UK’s terror threat level reduced

 Armed policemen at Heathrow Airport The terror threat level was raised to severe in January last year The UK terror threat level is being reduced from “severe” to “substantial”, the home secretary has announced.

The new alert level means the risk of a terrorist attack is considered to be a “strong possibility” and “might well occur without further warning”.

Theresa May said: “The change in the threat level does not mean that the overall threat has gone away.

“There is still a real and serious threat to the UK and I would ask the public to remain ever vigilant.”

She said the decision to downgrade the terrorist threat level was made independently of ministers by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC) and was based on the very latest intelligence, considering factors such as “capability, intent and timescale”.

The threat level last changed in January last year where it was raised to “severe”.

The threat level is under constant review and can change quickly in response to events.

Continue reading the main story Critical – attack expected imminently Severe – attack highly likelySubstantial – attack a strong possibilityModerate – attack possible but not likelyLow – an attack unlikely

Source: Home Office

It was first made public on 1 August, 2006, when it was set at “severe”.

The level was then raised to critical ten days later after a series of arrests over an alleged plot to blow up a transatlantic aircraft.

It was lowered to “severe” again the following week.

The threat level was last set at critical in June 2007, following the attack on Glasgow Airport and the failed car bombings in central London.

BBC home affairs correspondent June Kelly said the threat to the UK comes from both Islamist extremists and Irish dissident groups.

June 30, 2011

US refocuses on home-grown terror threat

US army Lieutenant Colonel Jesse Pearson (2L) battalion commander of Task Force Spader talks to his men during a visit to US army Combat Outpost (COP) Bowri Tana in Gorbuz district, on the border with Pakistan in Khost province, east of Afghanistan on June 28, 2011. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

WASHINGTON: The United States vowed Wednesday to pursue the “utter destruction” of al Qaeda, while refocusing its counter-terrorism strategy to combat the threat of home-grown terror.

The new strategy comes on the 10th year of the US-led “war on terror,” launched by former president George W. Bush after the deadly September 11 attacks on the United States.

It is a “pragmatic, not ideological” approach to counter-terrorism that “formalizes” the administration’s approach since January 2009, said John Brennan, President Barack Obama’s top counter-terrorism advisor.

The new strategy, developed after US commandos killed Osama bin Laden on May 2 in Abbottabad, also reflects “the extraordinary political changes” sweeping the Middle East and North Africa, Brennan said.

“This is the first counter-terrorism strategy that designates the homeland as a primary area of emphasis in our counter-terrorism efforts,” said Brennan, who is also deputy national security adviser for homeland security.

Al Qaeda still in the US crosshairs

The principal focus is “al Qaeda, its affiliates and its adherents,” said Brennan, speaking at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington.

“We aim to render the heart of al Qaeda incapable of launching attacks against our homeland, our citizens, or our allies, as well as preventing the group from inspiring its affiliates and adherents to do so,” he said.

“This is a war, a broad, sustained, integrated and relentless campaign that harnesses every element of American power,” he said.

“And we seek nothing less than the utter destruction of this evil that calls itself al Qaeda.”

With US forces pulling out of Iraq and preparing for a draw-down in Afghanistan, Brennan all but ruled out foreign adventures.

“If our nation is threatened, our best offense won’t always be deploying large armies abroad but delivering targeted, surgical pressure to the groups that threaten us,” he said.

President Obama, speaking at a press conference Wednesday, said that US military operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan have served to “severely cripple al Qaeda’s capacities” and have “decimated some of the upper ranks of al Qaeda.”

The terror network is “having a great deal of difficulty operating and financing themselves. We’ll keep the pressure on,” Obama said.

Brennan dismissed the new al Qaeda leader, Egyptian-born Ayman al-Zawahiri, as “an aging doctor who lacks bin Laden’s charisma and perhaps the loyalty and respect of many in al Qaeda.”

The “lone wolf” threat

The US strategy also takes into account the growing threat of domestic “lone wolf” attackers radicalized by online preachers.

This is “the first counter-terrorism strategy that focuses on the ability of al Qaeda and its network to inspire people in the United States to attack us from within,” Brennan stressed.

The best known of these attackers is Major Nidal Hasan, the US Army psychiatrist charged with killing 13 people and wounding 32 more in a November 5, 2009 shooting rampage at the Fort Hood army base.

On Wednesday, three men arrested in a sting operation for planning to attack two New York synagogues and to shoot down US military planes were each sentenced to 25 years in prison.

On June 23, two US men were charged with plotting to attack a military center in the northwestern US city of Seattle with machine guns and grenades, allegedly hoping to kill more people than Hasan did at Fort Hood.

The new counter-terrorist strategy also focuses on threat from al Qaeda affiliates in places like Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, and north Africa.

“As the al Qaeda core has weakened under our unyielding pressure,” said Brennan, “it has looked increasingly to these other groups and individuals to take up its cause, including its goal of striking the United States.”

Separately, Brennan said that Iran and Syria “remain leading state sponsors of terrorism.”

“Hezbollah and Hamas are terrorist organizations that threaten Israel and our interests in the Middle East. We will therefore continue to use the full range of our foreign policy tools to prevent these regimes and terrorist organizations from endangering our national security,” he said.

Regarding Pakistan, Brennan acknowledged that the relationship “is not without tension or frustration,” but said that both sides were working to overcome differences.

“I am confident that Pakistan will remain one of our most important counter-terrorism partners,” he said.

June 30, 2011

Taliban Threat: Afghan and coalition forces recover 100 caches in 10 days

One cache recovered had rockets, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades. PHOTO: AFP

KABUL: The expected Taliban summer surge seemed to have matured when six militants stormed the Intercontinental hotel late on Tuesday night. Further evidence to increased Taliban activity was discovered after Afghan security forces started discovering caches of weapons by the dozen over the past two weeks.

An ISAF release said that Afghan National Security Forces had been recovering caches in villages, thereby thwarting terrorist activity. “Taking weapons and communication equipment out of the hands of the enemy is one way to disrupt its network – and one many Afghan civilians are helping with,” said German Army Brig. Gen. Josef Blotz, International Security Forces Afghanistan spokesman, during a press conference held on June 27.

The release said that the Afghan and coalition forces had seized more than 100 weapons caches in the past two weeks which were used to carry out insurgent attacks. For example, one cache contained more than 35 rockets, 24 mortars and 22 rocket propelled grenades.

Tips from Afghan citizens have aided forces in finding the caches, which is a sign of their trust in ANSF and their local police forces – the Afghan Local Police (ALP), said Blotz.

The ALP forces are selected by their community to provide local defence against insurgents and are trained by the Afghan Ministry of Interior (MOI). They are legitimate, enrolled members of the MOI.

“They are not militia. They are vetted, trained, and enrolled by the MOI, and, where available, wear a distinctive brown uniform,” said Blotz.

Role of ALP highlighted

The ALP has been instrumental in protecting the local populace. Today, there are 41 validated sites with more than 6,500 members, said Blotz.

“Afghan National Security Forces grow stronger every day,” said Dominic Medley, NATO senior civilian representative’s spokesman. “The transition is on track. In 2014, Afghanistan’s security will rest with the ANSF and that’s exactly where it should be.”

“The ANSF are showing more and more resolve,” stated Blotz. “We salute them for their resilience and commitment to their country.”

Increased Taliban activity

Traditionally, the summer months see increased insurgent activity. This was witnessed in the rising number of cross border Taliban attacks into Pakistan from Afghanistan.

The recent jailbreak where Taliban were able to aid the escape of up to 500 of their comrades is believed to have bolstered Taliban ranks.

The Afghan security forces now face a stiff challenge of tackling with the Taliban in wake of the US troop drawdown announced by US President Obama a few days ago which will see up to 30,000 troops being withdrawn by the end of 2012 and more territories being handed over to the Afghan security forces.