UK threat 'approaching critical' - Plans made to deal with those who 'self radicalise' - Somali community ties to Al Qaeda cited
October 3, 2008
Terror threat in UK 'approaching critical'
The terrorist threat in Britain is approaching critical as police and MI5 face an increase in activity by al-Qaeda militants, senior security officials have disclosed.By Duncan Gardham, Security Correspondent
Last Updated: 10:30AM BST 03 Oct 2008 The terrorist threat in Britain has been considered severe since the arrest of the men allegedly plotting to attack transatlantic airliners in 2006 Photo: REUTERS The threat level is at the "severe end of severe" according to sources who say the level of "chatter" among terrorist cells has increased in recent months. The security services say they are now operating at full stretch to counter the elevated threat. Britain's close relationship with the US has been particularly inflammatory after cross-border raids into Pakistan by American forces. Security officials had considered downgrading the official threat level from "severe" but that plan has now been abandoned as a result of the increase in terrorist activity. A senior counter terrorism source said: "We were looking at the threat level six months ago and asking how severe is severe? But it is October now and we are at the severe end of severe. "Al-Qaeda's core exists on the Afghan-Pakistan border. The arrangement of people changes at a frighteningly rapid pace but they have enough people to replace them and there are people who are looking at us and at external operations, some at this country in particular. "We are not chasing shadows. These are potential threats to security and life. Police and the security network are operating at full capacity." The source said a review by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, which looks at information from MI5, MI6 and GCHQ, had considered downgrading the threat from "severe," meaning an attack is highly likely, to "substantial," meaning an attack is a strong possibility, but that move was abandoned after the level of activity increased. The assessment, which has five levels, has been considered severe since the arrest of the men allegedly plotting to attack transatlantic airliners in 2006 but moved up to "critical," meaning an attack is imminent, during last year's car bomb alert which led to the attack on Glasgow airport. It is now only just below that level. MI5 is watching around 200 networks across Britain and MI6 and GCHQ are constantly monitoring communications on the crucial Afghan-Pakistan border area. Although key commanders have been killed in air strikes, one of the particular concerns is the disappearance of Rashid Rauf from Birmingham, an alleged al-Qaeda mastermind who escaped from Pakistani custody last December. Security officials are also worried about threats which may come from off the radar. They are particularly worried by lone operators who "self-radicalise" over the internet and stock-pile chemicals from domestic sources. "They are discreet from traditional networks and have a very small intelligence signature which makes them hard to pick up," the source said. There is also a fear that some in the Somali community in Britain could have "potential connections" with al-Qaeda terrorists. Last week's attack on the US embassy in the Yemen means security officials now consider the Arabian peninsular "particularly combustible." "Over the past year, al-Qaeda has invested huge energy in outlying organisations," the source said. But it is the lone operators who pose the biggest threat, particularly since attempts to cut off the supply of "kitchen chemicals" used in home made bombs, such as hydrogen peroxide and ammonium nitrate, have been unsuccessful because they are so widely availabl e. "We are doing a lot of research work into the detection of explosives at train stations and so on but this really demonstrates the importance of preventing radicalisation," the source said. Part of the strategy has involved tackling al-Qaeda propaganda over the internet. "We are looking at the way we see the threat as a movement by the al-Qaeda core and we're finding a new language to help move on the debate," the source said. "Whatever they do, we want to do." The Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism, a part of the Home Office which co-ordinates Britain's count-terrorism strategy, is working on a number of strategies for diverting vulnerable young men and de-radicalising those who have become involved with extremist organisations. "We have limited evidence about what works but we want to get moving forward," the source said. "We need some quick wins."
Plans drawn up to deal with lone extremists1 hour ago LONDON (AFP) — The government is drawing up a new strategy to deal with the potential threat from extremists acting alone amid signs that the country is facing a rising risk of attacks, media reported Friday. Citing unnamed senior counter-terrorism sources, Th e Daily Telegraph said that officials were concerned about individuals who "self-radicalise" using the Internet, and accumulate potentially lethal chemicals domestically. According to the newspaper, terror cell "chatter" had also increased over the course of the year, and though officials had at one point considered downgrading Britain's official threat level, that has since been abandoned. The threat of a terrorist attack is currently listed by the domestic intelligence service MI5 as "severe", the second-highest of five levels, and has never dropped below that level since the indicator was introduced in the aftermath of the July 2005 suicide bombings on London's transport network. "We were looking at the threat level six months ago and asking how severe is severe?" a senior counter-terrorism source was quoted as saying by the Telegraph. "But it is October now and we are at the severe end of severe." The source added that police and the security services were operating at "full capacity". "We are not chasing shadows," the source said. "They are potential threats to security and life." The Guardian reported, meanwhile, that officials were putting together plans to use new technologies and better communication between and with police, local authorities and community groups to identify self-radicalised terrorists. Of particular concern, the newspaper said, was security during the 2012 Lo ndon Olympics, with evidence of Islamic extremists having an "east London footprint". A security source also told the paper that ministers had acknowledged that British foreign policy and its close ties to the United States were major issues for Muslims. The Home Office, said it would not comment on the reports