More Britons are turning to terror, says MI5 director
By Michael Evans
1,600 suspects under surveillance
30 plots to kill, maim, damage
200 terror groups or networks
Read the full speech by MI5 chief
Hundreds of young British Muslims are being radicalised, groomed and set on a path to mass murder, the head of MI5 said yesterday.
In a stark public warning, Dame Eliza ManninghamBuller, the Director-General of MI5, revealed that the Security Services caseload had risen by 80 per cent since January and now involved about 30 Priority 1 plots.
It has identified 200 terrorist networks involving at least 1,600 people, many under the direct control of al-Qaeda leaders in Pakistan.
More and more people are moving from passive sympathy towards active terrorism through being radicalised or indoctrinated by friends, families, in organised training events here and overseas, she said. Young teenagers are being groomed to be suicide bombers.
Dame Eliza said that she was alarmed by the scale and speed of the radicalisation, which security sources later said had intensified since the 7/7 bombings. It is the youth who are being actively targeted, groomed, radicalised and set on a path that frighteningly quickly could end in their involvement in mass murder of their fellow citizens, or their early death in a suicide attack or on a foreign battlefield, she said.
Killing oneself and others in response is an attractive option for some citizens of this country and others around the world. [The] threat is serious, is growing and will, I believe, be with us for a generation. It is a sustained campaign, not a series of isolated incidents. It aims to wear down our will to resist.
Dame Eliza admitted that, despite a major recruitment drive, just 6 per cent of MI5s staff came from ethnic minorities. This compares with 8 per cent in the Metropolitan Police. Security sources insisted that change was happening and, of 400 people recruited this year, 14 per cent were from ethnic minority groups.
Dame Elizas comments came in an address to a discreet audience from the Mile End Group run by Peter Hennessy, Professor of Contemporary British History at Queen Mary, University of London.
She timed her stark assessment to coincide with the conviction of Dhiren Barot, the al-Qaeda planner who was jailed for 40 years this week for plotting car bomb and dirty bombs attacks in London.
In her speech she said the methods used by terrorists had become more sophisticated.
Today we see the use of home-made improvised explosive devices, she said.
Tomorrows threat may, and I suggest will, include the use of chemical, bacteriological agents, radioactive materials and even nuclear technology, she said.
Her assessment of 30 Prior- ity 1 plots is a significant increase on the 24 major conspiracies referred to by John Reid, the Home Secretary, in August.
Both police and security sources have given warning that Britain has become the No 1 target for al-Qaeda.
The significant Muslim population and the constant flow of British-born Pakistanis visiting their families in Pakistan every year have been cited as providing al-Qaeda with opportunities for converting young people to terrorism.
My officers and the police are working to contend with some 200 groupings or networks, totalling over 1,600 identified individuals (and there will be many we dont know) who are actively engaged in plotting or facilitating terrorist acts here and overseas, Dame Eliza said.
Those terror networks often have links back to al-Qaeda in Pakistan and, through those links, al-Qaeda gives guidance and training to its largely British foot soldiers here on an extensive and growing scale.
The head of MI5s speech, which was approved by ministers, comes after recent warnings given by Peter Clarke, head of Scotland Yards Counter Terrorism Command, and by Mr Reid. They both said that the terrorist threat would be long and enduring.