Britain's anti-terror police chief quits over blunder

10th April 2009, Comments 0 comments

The chief quit after he was photographed with a sensitive document clearly visible, forcing Scotland Yard to hastily reschedule a raid on terrorism suspects.

London -- Britain's top counter-terror police officer resigned Thursday after his security blunder led to a major swoop on suspects being hastily brought forward.

Assistant Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bob Quick tendered his resignation to London Mayor Boris Johnson following Wednesday's intelligence gaffe.

Quick said he deeply regretted the disruption caused to colleagues when he inadvertently revealed details of a counter-terrorism operation.

He was photographed as he arrived at Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Downing Street office for talks on police reform with a sensitive document clearly visible.

It contained details about a planned operation, including that there were 11 suspects -- 10 of them of Pakistani origin and in Britain on student visas, and one British born -- and where the raids would take place.

Police arrested 12 people under the Terrorism Act in evening raids Wednesday across northwest England, which media reports said had been planned for Thursday morning but were hastily rescheduled.

"I have today offered my resignation in the knowledge that my action could have compromised a major counter terrorism operation," Quick said in a statement.

"I deeply regret the disruption caused to colleagues undertaking the operation and remain grateful for the way in which they adapted quickly and professionally to a revised timescale."

Assistant Commissioner John Yates has been appointed to take over as head of counter-terrorism at Scotland Yard.

"Yates of the Yard" led up the so-called cash-for-honours investigation that clouded the final months of Prime Minister Tony Blair's premiership in 2007.

Mayor Johnson told BBC radio he accepted Quick's resignation "with great reluctance and sadness".

"There was absolutely no kind of witch-hunt or effort to get him out," the Conservative stressed.

Police raids took place in the cities of Liverpool -- including at John Moores University -- and Manchester, plus the nearby town of Clitheroe.

Greater Manchester Police said several hundred officers were involved in the operation, which saw eight premises searched as part of an ongoing investigation that also reportedly involved domestic intelligence agency MI5.

The Times newspaper said there were plans to attack a nightclub and shopping centre complex in Manchester, Britain's third city.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said that despite the operation being "successful", Quick felt his position was "untenable".

"I want to offer my sincere appreciation of all the outstanding work he has done in this role, which has helped keep this country safe," she said.

Scotland Yard chief Paul Stephenson, Britain's top police officer, said: "Bob Quick is a tremendous police officer who has served with dedication and professionalism throughout his career.

"I hold Bob in the highest regard, as a friend and colleague, and that opinion has not changed. He has accepted that he made a serious error and that has led to his resignation."

Britain has been on high security alert ever since the July 2005 attacks in London, which killed 56 people including four suicide bombers, and failed car bomb attacks in London and Glasgow in June 2007.

The security threat remains on its second highest level, severe. MI5 chief Jonathan Evans said in January that Al-Qaeda leaders based in Pakistan still intended to mount attacks on Britain -- and had the capacity to do so.

The anti-terror security blunder adds to Scotland Yard's woes after the emergence of a video showing an officer violently pushing a man at last week's G20 protests, shortly before he died.

A police watchdog body is investigating the case, and the Home Office has said officers could face a criminal investigation, depending on the outcome of the watchdog probe.

Robin Millard/AFP/Expatica

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