British intelligence chief: Terror threat in Britain lessened
MI5 head Jonathan Evans said Wednesday prosecutions have reduced risk. But Europe's siding with Israel on Gaza may incite European Muslims to hostility.
The head of Britain's intelligence organization, MI5, says that the terror threat in Britain has receded after a string of successful prosecutions, reports the BBC, in the first interview ever given by the director of the secretive agency.Skip to next paragraph
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In remarks published Wednesday, agency head Jonathan Evans says 86 terror convictions since January 2007 have dampened the enthusiasm of plotters.
"That has had a chilling effect. We have probably seen fewer 'late-stage' attack plans over the last 18 months," he said.
Mr. Evans warned that terror networks still have the capacity to strike within Britain, and that the global financial crisis could create new unforeseen tensions, says The Guardian.
"There is a significant number of individuals in active sympathy. They are doing things like fundraising, helping people to travel to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia. Sometimes they provide equipment, support and propaganda."
Vigilance has been heightened in Britain since the terror attacks of July 7, 2005, when four suicide bombers struck London's public transportation system during morning rush hour, killing 52 people and wounding more than 700. Two weeks later, four bombs improperly detonated on London subway trains and buses. In June 2007, two men tried to drive a jeep loaded with gas canisters and nails into the Glasgow airport terminal. One of the attackers, Bilal Abdulla, was sentenced in December 2008 to at least 32 years in prison.
Evans said the current Israeli offensive on Gaza may prove a particularly potent propaganda tool. Press reports indicate that many European Jews and Muslims agree, with some warning of increased radicalization among Islamic youths and others pointing to a surge in anti-Semitic incidents since the start of the conflict.
On Thursday, the leaders of several prominent British Muslim organizations delivered a letter to Prime Minister Gordon Brown warning that "anger within UK Muslim communities has reached acute levels of intensity," reports The Gaurdian.
"The Israeli government's use of disproportionate force ... has revived extremist groups and empowered their message of violence and perennial conflict. For Muslims in the UK and abroad, we run the risk of potentially creating a loss of faith in the political process."
The letter was signed by the imam of London's Al Tawhid mosque, as well as by officials of the UK Islamic Foundation, the British Muslim Forum, and the Quilliam Foundation, a think tank that studies extremism.
They further warned Brown that the war in Gaza, and the American position on the violence, threatened to damage Britain's standing in the Islamic world and contribute to the radicalization of British and European Muslim youths.