Thursday, 9 April 2009

Making up a target for a deadline

A little earlier this afternoon, Chief Constable Peter Fahy of Greater Manchester Police gave a very open press conference regarding the arrests of 12 men in the North West last night.

This morning's newspapers were full of stories, partly aimed at Bob Quick, whose blunder saw the operation brought forward - according to Fahy - by only 24 hours. This doesn't stop the Mail lambasting Quick for the size of his pension, despite the fact he's devoted 31 years to the police service.

But there was another common thread.

The Daily Star front page read 'Terror plot to blow up top footie grounds', suggesting that: Fears were growing over a bomb threat to last night’s Euro cup clash as police foiled a “major” terrorist attack....There is no immediate suggestion the stadium was the target but one of the raids was just three miles away.

Of course, since they mention that the 'raids were brought forward after a serious security blunder' it's hard to understand how they think a football match beginning within hours of the arrests was a target. But this is the Star we're talking about.

The Mail ran with 'Terror gang' may have been 'plotting to blow up shopping centre and nightclub' which claimed: Police believe possible targets were the Trafford Centre shopping centre in Manchester and a nightclub frequented by footballers.

The Express said 'Shops and nightclub were terror target' and went into greater detail: Senior sources also revealed the alleged terror cell planned to attack the Birdcage nightclub in Manchester city centre or the Trafford Centre shopping complex. The nightspot, with its dancing showgirls, has become hugely popular, attracting thousands of clubbers each week. Detectives believe it was chosen as a symbol of “western decadence”.

The Sun led with 'Four potential bomb targets' which said: Intelligence sources believe the Trafford Centre and a huge Manchester nightclub called The Birdcage were being eyed-up by the gang. And today it emerged that two other major shopping areas in Manchester had also been under observation. The Arndale Centre and St Ann's Square — both in the heart of the city — had been visited by some of the suspects.

The last line is a classic - why is it surprising that some people living in Manchester had visited major Manchester shopping centres?

However, in Fahy's news conference, he was asked specifically about the targets. And as the Independent reports, he said this:

Clearly, there's been some speculation about certain locations, particularly in the North West, concerning this investigation. There is no particular threat against any particular location and certainly not the ones mentioned in the media.

Hmm. Surely the media wouldn't indulge in such unfounded speculation as they rushed out stories for the first editions. Would they?

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