Britain’s top policeman has warned that the number of terror plots in the UK is on the increase.
Met Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair has told MPs there is a ‘mounting’ risk of an attack.
He also claimed the number of conspirators or would-be terrorists involved is growing and the “magnitude” of their ambitions is increasing.
Britain’s stocks of plutonium are kept in “unacceptable” conditions and pose a severe safety and security risk, experts warn today.
The Royal Society says ministers must urgently review the way more than 100 tonnes of the radioactive element, separated during the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel, is held at the Sellafield complex in Cumbria. The society, Britain’s premier scientific academy, says a previous warning to the government has been ignored, and that the rise of international terrorism means the UK must now find a way to use or dispose of the material.
Plutonium is highly toxic and is the primary component of most nuclear bombs. In a report published today, the society says a well-informed terrorist group could turn a small amount of the stockpiled material into a crude atomic weapon.
Professor Geoffrey Boulton, chair of the group that wrote the report, said: “The status quo of continuing to stockpile separated plutonium without any long-term strategy for its use or disposal is not an acceptable option. The Royal Society initially raised concerns about the security risks nine years ago, and we have not seen any progress. The stockpile has grown while international nuclear proliferation and terrorist threats have increased.”
The amount of plutonium stored at Sellafield has nearly doubled in the last decade to 103 tonnes. A quarter has been separated for foreign countries and companies. Prof Boulton said: “Just over 6kg of plutonium was used in the bomb which devastated Nagasaki, and the UK has many thousands of times that amount. We must ensure this very dangerous material does not fall into the wrong hands.”
A Taleban commander has claimed that the former Afghan rulers are planning to target Westerners in Britain and the rest of Europe for waging war against them in Afghanistan.
Mullah Muhammad Amin, a former official in the Taleban Government before it was overthrown by the US-led coalition in 2001, told Sky News that the Taleban had been inspired by extremists in Iraq and now wanted to export terror to the West.
He said that they had large stockpiles of weapons and that fighters hiding in Pakistan were being helped by people sympathetic to their cause.
Police in the UK are keeping tabs on “thousands of people” who may be involved in terrorism, Scotland Yard’s head of counter-terrorism says.
Peter Clarke told a BBC Two documentary Al-Qaeda: Time to Talk? that his officers had to be focused on a “whole range of people”.
“Not just terrorists not just attackers but the people who might be tempted to support or encourage,” he said.
He recently described the intelligence picture in the UK as “very disturbing”.
The threat of terrorism in Britain will take “generations” to overcome, a government minister has warned.
Communities Minister Phil Woolas said he saw the fight against Islamic extremism as a “perpetual” one.
He was speaking with leaders of various faiths, meeting to check up on the progress of measures designed to combat terrorism after the 7 July bombings.
Four out of five Britons believe the west is losing the “war against terror” and want Tony Blair to distance British foreign policy from the United States, a poll revealed today.
The YouGov survey for today’s Spectator magazine, conducted following the arrest of 24 people in the alleged airline terror plot last week, also revealed that a majority thought it fairly likely Britain would suffer a terrorist attack in the next year, while a third thought it very likely.
Homes and businesses across England are being searched and 24 people questioned after police say a plot to blow up planes from the UK to US was disrupted.
They say they are convinced they have the key players in custody, but a wider investigation is only just beginning.
Peter Clarke, the head of Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorist branch, said the network involved was large and global.
And US Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said the plot was “in some respects suggestive of al-Qaeda”.
British police said it could have caused “mass murder on an unimaginable scale”.
Sources in the UK have confirmed that they believe an attack may have been imminent – possibly in the next few days.