Al-Qaida ‘targeting Britain’

The July 7th bombings in London last year were “just the beginning” of al-Qaida’s plans for Britain, counter-terrorism officials have warned.

Top security sources told the Guardian that Britain has become the main target for the terrorist organisation, which has successfully regrouped in Pakistan.

“They viewed 7/7 as just the beginning. Al-Qaida sees the UK as a massive opportunity to cause loss of life and embarrassment to the authorities,” one is reported as saying.

A second source agreed: “Britain is sitting at the receiving end of an al-Qaida campaign.”

Several attempted attacks on the UK have been foiled since last summer’s London bombings, in which 52 people were killed and hundreds more injured.

In August, the national threat level was raised to its highest point after an alleged plot to blow up a transatlantic flight from the UK to the US was foiled by security services.

The current threat level – which is made available to the public at intelligence.gov.uk – is severe, which is the second highest and means an attack is “highly likely”.

The airline plot led to a number of people being charged, but today’s report suggest the new al-Qaida-inspired groups in the UK are organising themselves much better than previously – and in ways that are much harder to infiltrate.

Counter-terrorist officials said they have become more like the old IRA cells – self-contained units made up of a lead organiser, a person in charge of weapons, explosives acquisition and training, and a number of volunteers.

These volunteers are usually Muslim men in their late teens and early 20s, convinced of the more radical teachings of Islam over a series of weekend and evening meetings, which normally begin innocently enough.

“It’s all about building up these recruits to consider themselves as Muslim ‘patriots’ and encouraging them to make the leap and ask themselves ‘This is how the west treats Muslims, what are we going to do about it?’,” said one source.

They are then taught how to make bombs and in final preparations for a suicide attack, make martyrdom videos and shave all their body hair off. The security officials note that there are a frightening number of young men willing to join up.