EVERY Briton is now a target for terrorists whatever their faith or race, MI5’s boss declared yesterday.
|Muslims callMARGARET Beckett yesterday slammed the “dangerous nonsense” spouted by people who claim the British Government is anti-Islam.
The Foreign Secretary urged the moderate majority of Muslims in Britain to “stand up and be counted”.
Mrs Beckett said: “Let us deny the terrorists the historical importance they claim to themselves. They have no right to speak for the great and noble faith of Islam.
“This is not a battle between civilisations but a stand-off between the whole of society on the one hand and a fairly small and nasty bunch of murderers and criminals on the other.” In a wide-ranging speech she warned that bloodshed in Iraq would be even greater if Britain pulled out too early.
And she pledged to stay as long as needed.
Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller outlined the terrifying prospect as she told how her agents are tracking 1,600 fanatics from 200 al-Qaeda cells.
In a rare briefing, the spy chief warned of a sustained campaign of indiscriminate terrorism lasting 30 YEARS.
And she said: “It aims to wear down our will to resist. All of us, whatever our ethnicity and faith, are the targets of terrorists.”
In a nightmare vision, Dame Eliza also told of the “daunting” menace facing Britain, in which:
THIRTY active terrorist plots are under investigation by the security services.
MANY more have yet to be uncovered.
SIX major attacks have been foiled in the last six years.
FANATICS are poised to use biological, radioactive or even nuclear weapons.
RECRUITMENT to terror cells of young Muslims — some still schoolkids — is exploding, with many groomed to be suicide bombers, and
MI5 is struggling to cope with a staggering 80 per cent increase in casework since January, leaving its 2,800 spooks at full stretch and potentially unable to “stop the next attack”.
Dame Eliza said: “The threat is serious, growing and will, I believe, be with us for a generation.
“Today we see the use of home-made improvised explosive devices. Tomorrow’s threat may — and I suggest WILL — include the use of chemicals, bacteriological agents, radioactive materials and even nuclear technology.”
Dame Eliza was addressing a small academic circle in East London called the Mile End Group.
She spelled out how MI5 was having to make tough choices over which suspects to track.
She said: “My officers and the police are working to contend with some 200 groupings or networks, totalling over 1,600 identified individuals who are actively engaged in plotting or facilitating terrorist acts here and overseas.
“And there will be many we don’t know, too.
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“More and more people are moving from passive sympathy towards active terrorism through being radicalised or indoctrinated by friends, families, in organised training events here and overseas, by images on TV, through internet chatrooms and websites.”
She told how al-Qaeda posts videos of bombings in Iraq on the net within half an hour — and uses them to brainwash British Muslim kids.
She said: “Chillingly, we see the results — young teenagers groomed to be suicide bombers.
“We are aware of numerous plots to kill people and damage our economy. What do I mean by numerous? Five? Ten? No, nearer 30 . . . that we know of.”
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Dame Eliza told how up to 200 plots of lower priority are not given blanket surveillance. Often, they are linked to terror warlords in Pakistan who guide and train British “foot soldiers”.
Dame Eliza said: “Killing oneself and others is an attractive option for some citizens.
“It is the youth who are being actively targeted, groomed, radicalised and set on a path that frighteningly quickly could end in their involvement in mass murder of their fellow UK citizens — or their early death in a suicide attack or on a foreign battlefield.”
Dame Eliza told how many of her agents were flat-out collecting intelligence “at some cost to their private lives and, in some cases, their safety”.
Making a plea for more resources, she warned the service was in danger of being overwhelmed. By contrast, she said: “Al-Qaeda has no restraints.”
She told how the harsh reality of being a spy was worlds apart from its TV portrayal in the drama series Spooks.
She said: “I wish life were like Spooks, where everything is knowable and soluble by six people.
“But those whose plans we wish to detect in advance are determined to conceal from us what they intend to do.”
She added: “We are faced by difficult choices. We cannot focus on everything so we have to decide where to focus our energies, whom to follow, whose telephone lines need listening to.
“We shan’t always make the right choices. And we recognise we shall have scarce sympathy if we are unable to prevent one of our targets committing an atrocity.”
Chancellor Gordon Brown has poured in enough cash for MI5 to double in size over seven years.
But Dame Eliza said: “Even with such rapid growth we shall not be in a position to investigate nearly enough of the problem.”