LONDON (Reuters) – More than 2,000 home-grown al Qaeda terrorists are plotting suicide attacks in Britain, the Sunday Telegraph newspaper reported, citing a secret intelligence document.
The security threat is at its highest level since the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States and the planning of attacks against British targets will increase further in 2007, the “Extremist Threat Assessment” document said, according to the newspaper.
“The scale of al Qaeda’s ambitions toward attacking the UK and the number of UK extremists prepared to participate in attacks are even greater than we had previously judged,” the Sunday Telegraph quoted the document as saying.
Britain suffered its worst peacetime attack in July 2005 when four British Islamists blew themselves up on London’s transport network, killing 52 commuters and wounding hundreds.
The report said Afghanistan, where more British troops are expected to be sent shortly, was the top location for terrorists planning jihad or holy struggle against the West.
It said al Qaeda was “resilient and effective” in Iraq while its operating environment and financial position in Pakistan had improved.
A spokesman for Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism unit said: “The threat is real and genuine as events of recent months and years have demonstrated.”
He declined to comment specifically on the report.
A spokeswoman for the Home Office said the department did not comment on leaked reports. “The threat level is as it was,” she said.
Eliza Manningham-Buller, head of intelligence agency MI5, said in November that Muslim extremists were plotting at least 30 major terrorist attacks in Britain and the threats might involve chemical and nuclear devices.
She said young British Muslims were being groomed to become suicide bombers and her agents were tracking some 1,600 suspects, most of whom were British-born and linked to al Qaeda in Pakistan.