Sunday, May 25, 2008
Extremists Targeting Mentally Ill?
As the expression goes here, ’those things’ like bomb threats and terror happen ‘up country’, in London, not here.
Think again. Residents of Southwest England are learning more and more about 22 year-old Nicky Reilly, the man who shattered their illusions of innocence and tranquillity as he emerged bloodied and burned from a restaurant in Exeter, England.
“You have lots of false alarms and tests and evacuations all the time and you just assume that it’s going to be another false alarm,” says Anna Lloyd a shop worker caught up in the terror scare on Thursday. “You never think that it will actually happen in this area for real,” she adds.
Cornwall and Devon police describe Reilly as a mentally ill and vulnerable young man. He was a convert to Islam and a person who in their words was radicalised and preyed upon by extremists. They allege he was planning to set off at least two bombs made of drain cleaner, kerosene and nails and the devices could have potentially been lethal.
“He was a normal guy you can’t imagine this guy would come and do these things,” says Nishant Patel who manages a neighbouring restaurant. Patel says he watched the whole incident unfold and it was clear Reilly was stunned and unable to speak after the incident.
Nicky Reilly remains in police custody in an Exeter hospital as he is being treated for severe burns. Police say they still have not been able to question him but they remain convinced he could not have acted alone.
And so in Reilly’s hometown of Plymouth, a calm cafe was transformed instantly over coffee. Several armed officers with assault rifles at the ready nabbed two more suspects for questioning. The chilling scene brought the terror threat to every store front and doorstep in town.
Authorities have also been scouring Reilly’s apartment in Plymouth, looking for clues into how a young man who they say is rather simple and dependent could have put together a lethal bomb and a chilling plot.
One place they are looking for leads is an internet café just a few blocks from Reilly’s home. Adam Targett, an employee at the internet café, says Reilly started coming to the internet café more than a year ago knowing very little about computers. Targett says he used to ask questions about very basic computing tools like email. But Targett says within months all that changed and so did the company he was keeping.
“He was actually accompanied to the café by two guys in Islamic dress,” says Targett.
While Reilly had a computer at home, Targett says it is now beginning to dawn on him why Reilly still came to the internet café. After each customer’s internet session, Targett says the computer history of that computer must be erased.
“It did bother us to begin with, yeah, but we can’t because of the way that data protection works we can’t check what people are looking at” he says.
Internet cafés have been well worn territory for extremists in the past. Police now fear that the picture emerging of Reilly follows a common pattern of radicalization and one that could now be affecting the most vulnerable of people in the most unlikely of places.
By Paula Newton, International Security Correspondent.
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