Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Glasgow Islamic terrorist suspect linked to senior al-Qaeda figure

Sean Rayment:

BRITAIN'S former spy chief has warned the country faces a terrorism threat of "unprecedented scale, ambition and ruthlessness" as links are drawn between one of the failed Glasgow bombers and a senior al-Qaeda member.

More than 100 suspects were awaiting trial in British courts for terrorist offences, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller said.

"It remains a very real possibility that they may, some time, somewhere, attempt a chemical, biological, radiological or even nuclear attack."

Reports in The Observer and The Sunday Times said Kafeel Ahmed, 27, who is critically ill with severe burns from the Glasgow attack that followed unsuccessful car bombs in London, was a "known associate" of a senior al-Qaeda figure.

The Observer quoted a source as saying he was linked to Algerian-born Abbas Boutrab, 29, who was arrested in Belfast in 2003 and jailed for six years in 2005 for plotting to blow up an airliner.

The newspaper said Ahmed had met Boutrab in Belfast while studying for a master's degree in aeronautical engineering.

The Sunday Times said Scotland Yard's Counter Terrorism Command SO15 was understood to have uncovered evidence that at least one of the suspects communicated with terrorist leaders in Iraq. The development has fuelled a theory that the failed attacks were designed as a farewell to Tony Blair to punish him for his role in Iraq. Dame Eliza, the former director-general of MI5, said the radicalisation of teenage Muslims "from first exposure, to extremism, to active participation in terrorist plotting" was now worryingly rapid.

The new Minister for Security, Admiral Sir Alan West, warned that Britain faced a 15-year battle to end the threat posed by Islamist terrorists. In his first interview since his surprise appointment, Sir Alan called on people to be "a little bit un-British".

"Britishness does not normally involve snitching or talking about someone," he said. "I'm afraid, in this situation, anyone who's got any information should say something."

Dame Eliza, writing in the periodical Policing: A Journal of Policing and Practice, repeated an earlier caution that 1700 terrorists in 200 networks "scattered across the country" were thought to be plotting 30 attacks at any one time. She warned of the "pressing demand" for the police to create a network of Muslim spies capable of improving intelligence gathering.

The first suspected bomber to be charged, Bilal Abdullah, 27, an Iraqi doctor, was remanded in custody after he appeared before magistrates in London accused of conspiracy to cause explosions.

Police in Bangalore, India, home to three suspects, were hunting 12 others who might be linked to the conspiracy, The Sunday Times reported.

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