Of note in today’s broadcast headlines is the news that the United Nations has said nearly 25,000 people are understood to have fled the Iraqi city of Ramadi, as Shia militias reportedly gather near the capital of Anbar Province.
The BBC’s Today Programme carried a package this morning focusing on allegations that the Armed Forces, and the Army in particular, have not taken reports of sexual harassment seriously enough. An interview with former Brigadier Nicky Moffat, who served for 27 years, said that all leaders need to “speak out louder” against rape and sexual assault. Brigadier Moffat (retd) said that the MOD needed to “redouble its efforts”. The Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Nick Carter, recent comment that “there needs to be a cultural shift” was also referenced.
An MOD spokesperson said:
Rape and sexual assault are abhorrent crimes which have no place in the Armed Forces. We absolutely do not tolerate offences of this kind and every reported incident of rape, sexual assault or harassment is thoroughly investigated. It is important to note that there is no evidence to suggest that rates of sexual offending in the Armed Forces are higher than in the broader population. However, we recognise the great courage it takes to come forward and report a sexual offence which is precisely why we have extensive support in place for those affected, including helplines, training programmes and awareness campaigns. In addition, the Army has established a Sexual Offences Prevention Working Group to both reduce incidents of sexual assault and improve support to victims.
Broadcast reports last night and many of today’s papers, including The Times, Daily Mail, Guardian, Independent and Daily Express, report that EU foreign ministers have agreed to deploy a military mission to destroy boats used by migrant smugglers in the Mediterranean - an operation in which the Royal Navy will play a major role. In an interview with the BBC on departing the talks, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon confirmed that planners would join a new headquarters to tackle “criminal gangs” but cautioned that the mission was at an early stage. During the talks in Brussels, NATO Secretary General, Jen Stoltenberg, told the EU to be on alert for terrorists hidden amongst the thousands of migrants currently being rescued. The Daily Telegraph reports that RAF spy planes could be deployed from Cyprus.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said:
We have made some progress today to a more comprehensive plan that will tackle the problem at source, disrupt the trafficker routes and get after the criminals who are involved in this activity.
We have the Royal Navy already off the Libyan coast, helping in search and rescue. We have said we are prepared to help with the details of this new mission. We are seconding some planning staff to think through the details of how it will work.
Any destruction of boats will require some legal authority and that has to come from the United Nations but we are not at that stage yet. We are only at the very beginning of planning this particular mission and getting towards a longer-term solution which involves disrupting the trafficking roots and breaking the criminal networks and getting out of the gangs who are making a lot of money out of this misery.
Clearly this is a mission which is going to take some time now because there are people on the move who have paid money in West Africa and in East Africa towards these gangs in the hope of getting across Africa and across the Mediterranean. We need to cut off those roots at source and deprive the criminal gangs of their revenue.
Defence Secretary Priorities
The Daily Mail reports on yesterday’s Defence Secretary article published on the MOD Blog stating his view that the threats posed by ISIL and Russia make the security situation as dangerous now as it was during the Second World War. The article summarises the Defence Secretary’s quotes on Defence investment, the SDSR, achieving the correct balance of manpower, strengthening partnerships with the US and France, Europe and NATO and his pledge that British troops serving overseas would not be subjected to persistent human rights claims.
Royal Navy Submariner
The Daily Telegraph, Guardian, Daily Mail and Daily Star all report the claims made yesterday and this morning on broadcast and online outlets that the Royal Navy submariner who published criticisms of the Trident nuclear system’s safety and security procedures intended to give himself up to authorities.
This morning, a Royal Navy spokesperson said:
We can confirm that Able Seaman McNeilly was apprehended last night and is now in the custody of the Royal Navy Police at a military establishment in Scotland where he is being afforded the duty of care that we give to all of our people. The Royal Navy disagrees with McNeilly’s subjective and unsubstantiated personal views but we take the operation of our submarines and the safety of our personnel extremely seriously and so continue to fully investigate the circumstances of this issue.
There is more reporting this morning about the situation near Ramadi, where the UN reports around 25,000 people have fled after ISIL reportedly seized the city on Sunday. Media reporting today claims that Shia militias are close to the city.
The UK Government spokesperson has said:
We are following the situation in Ramadi closely. Coalition forces continue to provide targeted air support in ISIL-held and contested areas throughout Iraq, with the Coalition launching numerous air strikes in Ramadi over the weekend. We have long said that there would be ebb and flow in the fight against ISIL. As the Prime Minister has said, this will be a long process, but we will, working with the Government of Iraq and coalition partners, eventually be successful. The fighting at Ramadi again shows the complex and difficult security situation in Iraq. Our thoughts are with the families of the victims of these brutal attacks. The priority must now be security and welfare of civilians who have fled the fighting. We are working closely with the Iraqi government to establish what support may be needed.
Reaper remotely piloted aircraft were involved in operations over Ramadi this weekend, supporting the Iraqi-led ground efforts with Tornado aircraft supporting Iraqi forces elsewhere in Iraq.
As of 18 May 2015, Tornado has flown 387 combat missions, conducting 141 successful strikes. RAF Reaper has flown 450 missions, conducting 110 successful strikes. Both aircraft continue to also provide vital intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assistance as part of an international coalition in support of the Iraqi Government.
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