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Ahead of G-20 summit, Britons alerted to 'dirty bomb' risk

A new government report says that a terrorist attack is now more likely than ever.

By Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor / March 27, 2009

Heightened vigilance: A police dive team conducted a security search near London's Royal Victoria Dock Thursday. Security forces are on alert across the country ahead of the April 2 Group of 20 summit.

Dominic Lipinski/Reuters

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LONDON

After decades of campaigns by Irish Republicans and, most recently, Islamist militants, Britons have become used to the daily threat of terrorism.

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But in a warning that the stakes have been raised – and just days before world leaders gather here for the Group of 20 meeting – a warning was given this week that a so-called dirty bomb on a British city is more likely than ever.

The government alert accompanied the launch of a major new antiterrorist strategy that encourages ordinary citizens to offer Britain an additional layer of security.

The new approach aims to train some 60,000 retail, hotel, and service industry staff to recognize terrorist threats. In addition, more resources will go into blocking access to information posted online on how to stage terror attacks.

Most significant, as part of a broader ideological offensive against terrorism and amid growing concern that alienated Muslim youths are being recruited by terror groups, the government will allocate funds for influential groups and individuals in Britain's Muslim community who speak out against extremism.

The 167-page document, regarded as the frankest assessment yet of the threat facing Britain, asserts that there is a need to "challenge those who reject the rights to which we are committed, scorn the institutions and values of our parliamentary democracy, dismiss the rule of law, and promote intolerance."

The document made headlines with a stark warning that changing technology and increased illegal transportation of chemical, radiological, and biological materials make the prospect of terrorists assembling and exploding a dirty bomb more realistic.

Currently, the risk of a terrorist attack taking place in Britain is said by the authorities to be "severe" – meaning that an attack is highly likely.

The threat of home-grown militants importing technology to construct improvised explosive devices of the type used against British and US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan was also highlighted in the report, called "Contest Two," which updates the previous "Contest" strategy developed in 2003.

The strategy's launch, however, was overshadowed by a continuing rift between the British government and Britain's largest Muslim group, which accused ministers Thursday of wanting to "undermine its independence" by demanding one of its leaders be removed from office.

The government, which has previously funded the Muslim Council of Britain, broke off relations earlier this month after it called for the resignation of a senior council official after he allegedly called for violence against Israel.

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