The Kurds are fearful. The locals are angry. Plymouth, a town of 250,000 on the Devon coast, is home to more than 2,000 Kurds. About 1,000 from the Kurdish community come from Iraqi Kurdistan.
Last night immigration officials detained Karwan Mahmud, a 31-year-old
Kurd, living in Plymouth. He was being held at Charles Cross police station, awaiting transport to a ‘removal centre’ where police were to put him on a flight to Iraq.
Mahmud is the third Kurd seized in Plymouth in just over a week. Last week Himen Abas (33) and Majid Ibrahim Amin (32) were taken into custody in Plymouth and sent to immigration removal centres.
The UK Border Agency spokesperson said of the detentions, ‘Detention is necessary to ensure immigration offenders do not abscond while final stages of their removal are being arranged,’ and that they would eventually be put on a flight to the Kurdish Autonomous Zone.
Kurds in the community are now living in fear. Everyone is scared as they do not know what will happen next.
Why the sudden rash of Kurds taken into custody? It might be related to several issues, including last year’s botched suicide bomb attack in Exeter by Nicky Reilly, aka Mohammad Rashid Saeed-Alim. Additionally, Devon and Cornwall are awaiting funding for anti-terror operations.
Nicky Reilly, a Muslim convert from Plymouth with a long history of mental instability, tried to blow up the Giraffe restaurant at the Princesshay shopping centre in Exeter back in May 2008. He attempted to detonate several home-made explosive devices containing nails, which he had put in glass soft drink bottles. Last month he was sentenced to a minimum of 18 years after pleading guilty to attempted murder and preparing an act of terrorism.
Plymouth’s Kurdish community spokesperson, Shoker Abobeker, said that because Reilly was associated with the Kurdish community there, his actions provoked a backlash against the community.
‘The media reported that Reilly was mixing with Kurdish people and that led to us being called extremists and people shouting that we were suicide bombers. We had worked really hard to be part of the Plymouth community and this had such a negative impact,’ said Abobeker.
The online comments [NOTE: online comments have been removed by The Herald staffers] by many residents in Plymouth in the past day or two show their anger and resentment directed at the Kurdish community there. It was hoped the Reilly guilty plea would help ease community tensions.
Anti-terrorism funding could be another possible factor in the recent arrests in Plymouth. With funding worth £1.7 million last year alone for anti-terrorism special operations, the local Devon and Cornwall police surely need to show their need for funding by stepping up arrests of ‘suspicious’ locals.
Conservative MP Geoffrey Cox said ‘You would have thought that after events in Exeter, which proved that terrorism can rear its ugly head anywhere, that the Home Office’s approach would have been different.’
The links between anti-terrorism funding, Nicky Reilly, Exeter, Plymouth, and the Kurdish community clearly exist. It is a shame that innocent immigrants are caught up in the state’s need to prove the need for terrorism funding. How many more Kurds will they have to arrest to satisfy the Home Office?
Bomber’s action stuns community, BBC News, 15 October 2008
Fresco, A. Nicky Reilly, Muslim convert, jailed for 18 years for Exeter bomb attack, Times Online, 31 January 2009, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/article5619151.ece
Funding delay hits anti-terror operations, Western Morning News, 10 February 2009 http://www.thisiswesternmorningnews.co.uk/news/Funding-delay-threat-anti-terror-operations/article-684102-detail/article.html
Nail bomb suspect released from hospital as police raid home of Kurdish men ‘linked’ to plot, Daily Mail, 27 May 2008, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1021897/Nail-bomb-suspect-released-hospital-police-raid-home-Kurdish-men-linked-plot.html
Popular Iraqi Kurd set to be deported, Peynamner News Agency, 07 February 2009. http://www.peyamner.com/details.aspx?l=4&id=108833
Third Kurd is taken by immigration, The Herald, 13 February 2009, http://www.thisisplymouth.co.uk/news/SECOND-IRAQI-KURD-FLOWN/article-693196-detail/article.html