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Thursday, February 26, 2009 

Express-watch: It's the Muslims again.

It's an adage I've doubtless alluded to here before, but it's often been said that no news is a perfect opportunity to make it up. Apart from the topic which the two previous posts have mentioned, there wasn't much news about yesterday, and when you're a journalist on the Daily Express, creative news values are already something which you're more than familiar with. Half the time the Express's dubious news values and journalism aren't worth engaging with, especially when the editors of both the Express and the Star have been apparently instructed by Richard Desmond to go as far to the right as they can without disengaging the more liberal readers of the papers.

The screaming headline "BRITISH MUSLIMS ARE KILLING OUR TROOPS" does however deserve a response, mainly because of just how ancient the main sources for it are. There is no actual evidence provided that any British Muslim has killed a British soldier; rather it instead suggests that if anything, the opposite is the case. In any event:

Last week on a visit to Afghanistan, Foreign Secretary David Miliband was shown Taliban bombs containing British-made components. They had either been sent from Britain or brought from the UK by a home-grown recruit.

This was first reported in the Sun and probably elsewhere last Saturday. It proves precisely nothing: components of a bomb, especially the crude improvised explosive devices made by insurgents will inevitably come from all over the place, just as weapons are manufactured all over the world. The same fighters probably have some American-made guns, although they tend to favour older, more easily serviceable weapons. Likewise, it was revealed previously that a number of soldiers in Basra had been killed with American-made bullets from the same NATO sniper rifle. Drawing conclusions that this immediately proves that British Muslims are directly involved in putting together IEDs is taking things too far.

Tal­­i­ban fighters with Yorkshire and West Midlands accents have also been heard talking in intercepted communications, according to a security agency briefing.

This is even older. The Sun first screamed about Nimrods hearing British accents in February last year, in what was probably propaganda that also revealed that, err, we were listening in.

The former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, Brigadier Ed Butler, said: “There are British passport holders who live in the UK who are being found in places such as Kandahar.

“There is a link between Kandahar and urban conurbations in the UK. This is something the military understands but the British public does not."

All well and good, but Kandahar is in the neighbouring province to Helmand, and is regarded as one of the more stable cities, which the Canadians are currently in charge of. There are plenty of British passport holders who live in the UK that, believe it or not, have perfectly legitimate links with both Pakistan and Afghanistan. They're not automatically jihadists just because they're visiting those areas.

Last night Tory MP and former infantry officer Patrick Mercer, chairman of the ­Commons counter terrorism sub committee, said: “I am aware from the troops I have ­spoken to that there are British-born insurgents working and fighting with the Taliban. "The evidence is principally from intercepting their radio communications. But in Iraq ­British troops found bodies of insurgents and they were as certain as they could be that they were British.

So now we're conflating Iraq with Afghanistan in a desperate attempt to get at some direct evidence that British Muslims are killing British soldiers.

None of this is to deny that there probably are some British Muslims fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan, but that they most likely number in the tens or less rather than anything approaching three figures. Screaming that they're murdering our boys without providing anything approaching actual evidence is hardly likely to help matters.

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