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New MI5 chief says terror suspects in Britain have doubled in the last year

Teens are being recruited to terror cause, says intelligence agency head. The government unveiled new security laws today.

By / November 6, 2007

The new chief of Britain's intelligence service MI5 painted a troubling picture of growing terrorist threat in Britain, saying the number of suspects in the country has more than doubled in the past year – and that many of the new recruits are teenagers. The remarks came just a day before the unveiling of new antiterror laws, which have raised concerns about civil liberties.

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The new security bill that was announced Tuesday, along with other new laws in a traditional speech by the Queen to Parliament, avoided the controversial issue of how long suspects could be held without charges, reports The Guardian. Instead, the government will "seek a consensus" on anti-terror laws.

The government will "seek a consensus on changes to the law on terrorism so the police and other agencies have the powers they need to protect the public while protecting essential liberties," the monarch told the assembled MPs and peers.
… The security bill, which the government hopes to publish by Christmas, aims to set up a sex offender-style register for terrorists released from prison, while other measures will prevent those convicted of terror offences from travelling abroad.

The Queen's speech also confirmed that the new bill will allow police to question "suspects about evidence that emerges after they have been charged, something not currently permitted." The law also seeks to "close a loophole in anti-terrorism laws, revealed earlier this year, in which police are not allowed to share fingerprints or DNA samples from terrorism suspects held under control orders," The Guardian reports.

On Monday, in his first public speech since taking over as director-general of MI5 in April, Jonathan Evans "painted an alarming picture of youngsters being turned into extremists," reports the The Times of London.

Teenagers as young as 15 are being recruited by terrorist groups in Britain, swelling the number of people suspected of being involved in terrorism to 4,000, the head of MI5 said yesterday.
… "They are radicalising, indoctrinating and grooming young, vulnerable people to carry out acts of terrorism."
In a speech in October last year, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, his predecessor, said there were 1,600 people on MI5's books who needed watching.
However, Mr Evans said the figure of known suspects had jumped to "at least 2,000", but he admitted: "We suspect that there are as many again that we don't yet know of." Police sources said yesterday that they were watching 500 people who were involved in at least 80 separate terrorist plots.

Mr. Evans also said Al Qaeda's campaign against Britain was being orchestrated not just from Pakistan but from Somalia, Iraq, and Algeria, reports the Times. MI5's manpower would be increased to 4,000 by 2011 with recently increased funding, Evans added.