London police chief warns of "hostile reconnaissance" in preparation for terror attack on financial district
August 10, 2005
MIM: Instead of warning the UK police could start acting preemptively by arresting people like Iqbal Asaria the economics and finance chairman of the Muslim Council of Britain who is running an international network of Islamist websites via his Webstar Internet hosting service ,and multimillion dollar companies involving pharmeceuticals and consulting. Besides being directly tied to Saad Al Fagih whom the US designed as a terrorist along with his Movement for Islamic Reform Asaria's offices are housed in a suburb of London located directed next to a Metropolitan Line subway station. Asaria's connections to Al Qaeda and terrorist funding go back at least a decade and involve many members of the Muslim Council of Britain which is a terrorist front operating under the guise of a civil rights group.
A TOP police officer has warned it is only a matter of time before terrorists attack London's financial district.
Commissioner of the City of London Police James Hart said there had been "hostile reconnaissance" of the City on several occasions since the September 11 attacks in 2001.
Mr Hart said today: "Every successful terrorist group pre-surveys its target. There's no doubt we've been subject to that surveillance and that sort of thing has been successfully disrupted."
He pointed out that the area had been a terrorist target for three decades, saying: "Look at the number of time we were hit by the IRA. I think (another attack) is a question of when rather than if."
Mr Hart estimated that only 50 per cent of businesses had contingency plans in place in case of an attack, and said the mindset of would-be terrorists meant the financial centres of western governments were prime targets.
He said terrorists would target anywhere where the maximum damage can be inflicted on the financial systems of London, as well as causing mass murder.
"If you want to hurt the Government, hurt people at the same time, and you want to cause maximum disruption...where better to hit than at the financial centre?"
The commissioner said there had been no arrests by police investigating surveillance by terrorist groups, but added that all information had been passed on to intelligence agencies.
He said the security cordon around the Square Mile had been extended as far as was practicable. Meanwhile, it emerged today that security was being stepped up at Premiership football grounds in the wake of the London terror attacks.
All 20 Premiership clubs are taking extra measures, such as searching all bags brought into stadia on match days.
Security was tight for the traditional curtain-raiser to the football season, the Charity Shield match between Chelsea and Arsenal last weekend.
A number of clubs attended a summit last July, to discuss planning for a chemical, biological or nuclear attack.
The increased security measures come as urgent talks to tighten immigration rules to ban Islamic extremists like Omar Bakri Mohammed from setting foot in Britain again, got underway.
A review of the Home Secretary's powers to exclude people who promote terrorism could be completed within weeks to prevent the firebrand preacher heading home after travelling to the Lebanon on Saturday, government sources revealed.
The so-called "Tottenham Ayatollah" sparked outrage last week by saying he would not inform police if he knew Muslim extremists were planning a bomb attack in Britain and left for Beirut amid suggestions that he could be tried for treason.
But yesterday Bakri said: "If there is a crime in the UK and my name has been mentioned, I will be the first one to return and challenge all these allegations."
Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott admitted the Government was currently impotent to stop him returning, although he made his own feelings clear.
Mr Prescott said: "At the moment he has the right to come in and out. That is the circumstances at present and we have to change situations in this country by law.
"As I understand it he has not committed an offence under the existing legislation."
City of London, Europe's premier financial centre, and an attack on the teeming district is only a matter of time, its chief of police warned on Wednesday.
James Hart faulted big corporations based in the so-called "square mile" -- which includes the offices of major United States, European and Japanese financial institutions -- of failing to take the threat seriously.
"Every successful terrorist group pre-surveys its target," Hart, Commissioner of the City of London police, told the Financial Times newspaper in a front-page interview.
"There's no doubt we've been subjected to that surveillance," he said, adding that "that sort of thing has been successfully disrupted".
Potential targets staked out have included iconic sites, business and prominent buildings -- "anywhere where the maximum damage can be inflicted on the financial systems of the City of London".
"If you want to hurt the government, hurt people at the same time, and you want to cause maximum disruption ... what better to hit than at the financial centre?" he said.
Yet, he said, despite the July 7 attacks on three underground trains and a double-decker bus that killed 56 people, including four apparent suicide bombers, only half of businesses in the city have contingency plans in place.
"All big businesses are well aware of their vulnerabilities in terms of the need for business planning," Hart said. "How much that planning translates into operational effect, I sometimes wonder."
The City of London, in the very heart of the capital, maintains its own police force that works closely with the metropolitan police, which covers greater London and doubles as Britain's lead anti-terrorist force.
As a financial district, the city is without peer in Europe, and ranks alongside New York and Tokyo in global significance. Its iconic sites include St Paul's Cathedral, one of London's top tourist attractions.
It is no stranger to terrorism. In the 1990s, it was targeted by the Irish Republican Army, which notably set off a truck bomb in Bishopsgate in April 1993 that killed one person, injured 40 and caused massive damage.
The July 7 attacks -- linked by the British government to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network -- touched the city as well: one of the bombed subway trains was near Aldgate station, on its eastern edge.
In September 2003, the city played host to a simulated chemical attack on the underground in which hundreds of people were evacuated from Bank station, near the Bank of England and London Stock Exchange.
The police chief's comments came as a debate continued to rage over how to deal with hard-line Islamists suspected of promoting terrorism among the nation's 1,6-million Muslims.
Michael Howard, leader of the main opposition Conservatives, criticised judges for citing the Human Rights Act to undercut legislation intended to combat terrorism and extremism.
The act was introduced by Prime Minister Tony Blair's government in 1998, a year after his Labour Party won power from the Conservatives.
"Parliament must be supreme," wrote Howard in the Daily Telegraph newspaper. "Aggressive judicial activism will not only undermine the public's confidence in the impartiality of our judiciary, but it could also put our security at risk -- and with it the freedoms the judges seek to defend."
In a related development, Saudi Arabia's outgoing ambassador to Britain, Prince Turki al-Faisal, complained how he was left "going round in circles" as he tried to warn British officials about Saudi dissidents in Britain.
"When you call somebody [in the government], he says it is the other guy [who deals with the issue]," he told the Times newspaper. "We have been in this runaround for the last two-and-a-half years."
Turki's grievances centred on two dissidents -- Saad Faqih, accused by the US in the 1998 bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi, and Mohammad al-Masari, who runs a jihadi website from his north London home.
Another former Saudi dissident is Omar Bakri Mohammed, a Syrian-born imam notorious for his hard-line Islamist views. He left for Lebanon at the weekend, and there is growing speculation that the government might ban his return.
Bakri was quoted in the Evening Standard newspaper on Wednesday as saying he expects to undergo a heart operation in November or December in London, paid for by Britain's free-care-for-all National Health Service.
The pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat quoted him on Wednesday as saying that he arrived on Tuesday in the Gulf emirate of Sharjah after spending three days in Beirut. Officials could not confirm the report. -- Sapa-AFP