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Up to 200 Al-Qaeda terrorists in Britain

London Times | March 6 2005

BRITAIN’s most senior police officer at the time of the September 11 terrorist attacks has warned that there are at least 100 Al-Qaeda trained fighters “walking Britain’s streets”.

Sir John Stevens, who retired as Metropolitan police commissioner at the end of January, fears the true figure of those potentially able to carry out attacks is probably nearer 200.

“Though they haven’t yet subjected Britain to horrors such as 9/11 or the Madrid bombings, make no mistake they would if they could,” said Stevens. “If I heard on my car radio that they had pulled off a terrorist atrocity at last, I’d be horrified but not in the slightest bit surprised.”

Stevens’s latest assessment of the threat posed by fundamentalist adherents of Osama Bin Laden comes in a newspaper article in which he says the government’s prevention of terrorism bill is “vital” legislation.

“The main opposition to the bill is from people who simply haven’t understood the true horror of the terrorism we face.

“For the safety of the vast majority, occasionally we will have to accept the infringement of the human rights of high-risk individuals.”

Stevens’s comments follow Tony Blair’s assertion on the BBC last week that there are “several hundred engaged in plotting or trying to commit terrorist acts”.

The figures are thought to be based on the numbers of “graduates” who returned to Britain from Al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan until they were destroyed by coalition forces during the war of 2001-02.

Senior security figures including Sir Ian Blair, Stevens’s successor as commissioner, believe the radicalising influence of such “jihadists” — some of whom have also fought for the Muslim cause in Bosnia, Chechnya and Kashmir — provide the core of the threat to Britain.

Stevens said the suspects held without trial at Belmarsh prison in southeast London remain a threat and should not be freed despite a ruling by the law lords in December that the men’s human rights had been infringed.

“I have read every word of the evidence and intelligence against them. I know that for the safety of innocent people they should remain under lock and key. They simply should not be at liberty in this country. It is madness,” Stevens wrote in the News of the World.

“I’ve heard opposing politicians say: ‘We didn’t need these new measures to fight the IRA when they were bombing our cities. Why do we need them against this lot?’ The difference is that no Provo ever strapped a bomb to their body, walked into somewhere like Trafalgar Square and blew themselves and 100 innocent passers-by to smithereens.

“We’ve never had to consider the prospect of the IRA flooding the London Underground with poison gas or exploding an anthrax bomb in Manchester.

He added: “Some of the reports that crossed my desk in the last few months alone made my hair stand on end.”

The former commissioner, who shared briefings with the prime minister from MI5, MI6 and Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorist branch, said “huge amounts of intelligence” had been provided by Muslims themselves, appalled at atrocities committed in the name of Islam.

“That intelligence proves these fanatics must not walk our streets. They must be locked up — or kicked out of the country.”


CHARLES CLARKE, the home secretary, is preparing to keep the 10 terror suspects in Belmarsh jail without charge despite the law lords’ ruling that it would be illegal. The move is being proposed as a fall-back to prevent the suspects, including Abu Qatada, Al-Qaeda’s key “ambassador” in Europe, from walking free this week.
Home Office sources said the home secretary had drawn up plans for a statutory order in case the terrorism bill is defeated in parliament.


 




 






 


 



 

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