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29 Sep 2010 14:10
The head of the British security service MI5 has warned that the United Kingdom faces a growing threat of terrorist attacks from British residents trained in Somalia and from dissident Irish republicans.
Jonathan Evans, in a speech in London recently, also made it plain that in the security service’s view the government must maintain special control orders for terror suspects in its forthcoming review of anti-terror laws.
“The government cannot absolve itself of the responsibility to protect its citizens just because the criminal law cannot, in particular circumstances, serve the purposes,” Evans said.
He added that the potential danger to Britain of extremists influenced by al-Qaeda had shifted to Somalia from the tribal areas of Pakistan, which now accounts for half, rather than 75%, of all terror plots linked to Britain.
Evans said “a significant number of UK residents” were training in al- Shabaab camps to fight in the insurgency in Somalia. “I am concerned that it’s only a matter of time before we see terrorism on our streets inspired by those who are today fighting alongside al-Shabaab.”
UK residents training and fighting in Somalia are thought to number more than 100. They are believed to be of various origins, including Pakistani, Bangladeshi and West African. MI6, Britain’s secret intelligence service, is also increasingly concerned about the spread of al-Qaeda-inspired jihadists across Africa, according to counterterrorist officials.
“Al-Shabaab, an Islamist militia in Somalia, is closely aligned with al-Qaeda, and Somalia shows many of the characteristics that made Afghanistan so dangerous a seedbed for terrorism in the period before the fall of the Taliban,” Evans said.
British officials believe Somalia is now a more serious base for potential attacks on the UK than Yemen where an al-Qaeda affiliate developed the “underpants bomb” that failed to blow up an aircraft. Evans also warned of more “signs of coordination and cooperation” between dissident republican splinter groups in Northern Ireland.
They had mounted or planned 30 attacks so far this year, as against just over 20 for all of 2009, mainly targeted at the security services, he said, describing the dissidents’ political base as “small and localised”. Their support is believed to amount to about 600 individuals, including former members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army.
Evans also warned of the potential for a terror attack during the 2012 Olympics. He delivered a clear message to the coalition government, which before the election threatened to cast off many anti-terror laws on the grounds that they threatened civil liberties.
He said he preferred to face criticism when there was no prosecution than see a plot come to fruition because MI5 had not acted soon enough.—
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