Britain’s top counter-terror officer resigned Thursday after a major security blunder, in a new blow for police already under fire over a death during G20 protests last week. Skip related content
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Assistant Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bob Quick tendered his resignation after the gaffe on Wednesday, which led to a major anti-terror swoop on suspects being hastily brought forward.
Quick was photographed as he arrived at Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Downing Street office for talks on police reform with a document marked “secret” 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 on Wednesday across northwest England, which media reports said had been planned for Thursday morning but had to be 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.
Assistant Commissioner John Yates has been appointed to take over as head of counter-terrorism.
“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.
London Mayor Boris 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,” Johnson said.
Quick is no stranger to controversy, having played a key role in the November 2008 arrest of an opposition lawmaker as part of a government department leak inquiry, which triggered a political furore.
But his latest blunder adds to Scotland Yard’s woes this week after the emergence of a video showing an officer violently pushing a man at protests against Thursday’s G20 summit, minutes before he collapsed and died.
A police watchdog body is investigating the death of Ian Tomlinson, and the Home Office interior ministry has said officers could face a criminal investigation, depending on the outcome of the watchdog probe.
Wednesday’s 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 said there were plans to attack a nightclub and shopping centre complex in Manchester.
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 said he still held Quick “in the highest regard”.
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.