MI5 tracking '30 UK terror plots' Head of MI5 saysEliza Manningham-Buller rarely speaks in public MI5 knows of 30 terror plots threatening the UK and is keeping 1,600 individuals under surveillance, the security service's head has said.
Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller warned the threat was "serious" and "growing".She warned future terrorists could mount chemical or nuclear attacks and that many of the plots in question "linked back to al-Qaeda". A spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain said Muslims would work with security services to thwart such plots. Hard choices
MI5 has increased in size by nearly 50% since 9/11 and now stands at roughly 2,800 staff.
But according to Dame Eliza the concern is that even with this rapid growth it will not be able to investigate nearly enough of the activity that is currently under way in the UK. She said hard choices would have to be made about resources.
"I wish life were like Spooks [the TV series] where everything is, a, knowable, and, b, soluble by six people," she explained.
Tomorrow's threat may - I suggest will - include the use of chemicals, bacteriological agents, radioactive materials and even nuclear technology Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller
Dame Eliza's terror warning
Dame Eliza's warning comes days after a UK man was sentenced to at least 40 years in jail for planning a series of attacks.
Attacks planned by Dhiren Barot, 34, from London, included using a so-called "dirty bomb" using radioactive material.In response to Dame Eliza's warning, Massoud Shadjareh, of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, said he accepted there was a terrorist threat but said it had to be put into perspective. "Over 1,000 arrests have been made under anti-terrorism since 9/11 and out of those, 27 have been found guilty. Out of those 27, only nine have been Muslims," he said.
Dame Eliza, who rarely speaks in public, gave a speech to a small audience on Thursday, detailing what she believes her organisation and the UK is facing.'Attacks thwarted'
She said that, since the 7 July bombings, five further major conspiracies in the UK had been thwarted.
"Today, my officers and the police are working to contend with some 200 groupings or networks, totalling over 1,600 identified individuals - and there will be many we don't know - who are actively engaged in plotting, or facilitating, terrorist acts here and overseas," she said.I wish life were like Spooks [the TV series] where everything is, a, knowable, and, b, soluble by six people Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller "Today we see the use of home-made improvised explosive devices.
"Tomorrow's threat may - I suggest will - include the use of chemicals, bacteriological agents, radioactive materials and even nuclear technology."
Out of the 200 or so groups being watched by MI5, a smaller subset are of the highest priority because its feared that they are plotting actual attacks.
"We are aware of numerous plots to kill people and to damage our economy. What do I mean by numerous? Five? Ten? "No, nearer 30 that we currently know of. "These plots often have linked back to al-Qaeda in Pakistan and through those links al-Qaeda gives guidance and training to its largely British foot soldiers here on an extensive and growing scale." She added that of the 30 plots some may turn out to be less credible or advanced but it would be hard to be sure until they are fully investigated. Tory security spokesman Patrick Mercer echoed her call for more resources. He said: "I think that the things that 7/7 made very clear to us - and also the aircraft plot this August - was that we just don't have enough spooks and secret agents to make sure that our country is as safe as it could be." Faith schools
Professor Anthony Glees is director of Brunel University's Centre for Intelligence and Security Service.He said: "Reading between the lines, she's saying in particular about campus extremism, and in particular she's talking about faith schools. "What I read her as saying is that we would be completely crazy to continue with a policy of segregated, faith based education. "Not because the Muslim faith in itself is dangerous or harmful - absolutely not - but because there are people out there who are using the faith of Islam to radicalise young people and to turn them to terror."
Inayat Banglawala, assistant Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Great Britain, said British Muslims should work to halt the terrorist threat.
He said: "Of the 30 plots that Dame Eliza mentioned, just how serious these are we will not know until of course these people are picked up and brought before courts of law."
"What I read her as saying is that we would be completely crazy to continue with a policy of segregated, faith based education.
Professor Anthony Glees
"As far as we're concerned, at the Muslim Council of Britain, we have always stated that British Muslims have a responsibility as well as others to co-operate fully with the security services to thwart such plots.
"She did make a good point in that whereas the security services have a responsibility to try and thwart terror plots it cannot be expected that the security services deal with why young people are being radicalised. "That is a wider societal issue."