LONDON, (AP) – Britain’s new security chief warned the battle against terrorism could take up to 15 years, while Prime Minister Gordon Brown said in an interview broadcast Sunday he wanted an expanded European system to share information on potential threats.
“I want the system that we are trying to expand between Europe — a system whereby we know who are potential terrorist suspects,” Brown told Sky News television. “It is very important that we tighten this up and it is something we are looking at as a matter of urgency.”
Adm. Sir Alan West, the former navy chief who was recently named Brown’s security minister, said Britain faced an unprecedented threat and a new approach was critical.
One of those approaches included challenges to the British psyche, he said.
“Britishness does not normally involve snitching or talking about someone,” he told The Sunday Telegraph. “I’m afraid, in this situation, anyone who’s got any information should say something because the people we are talking about are trying to destroy our entire way of life.”
He said prevention and dealing with the radicalization of young Muslims was his top priority.
“This is not a quick thing,” he said. “I believe it will take 10 to 15 years. But I think it can be done as long as we as a nation apply ourselves to it and it’s done across the board.”
West also said it was wrong to talk of “the Muslim community” as if they were separate from the rest of the population. He said Muslims see themselves as British and that terrorists have hurt them as well.
“I think they have severely damaged one of the world’s great religions — the one they purport to support,” West said.
Counterterrorism agents claim they have foiled several attacks in Britain since the July 7, 2005, suicide bombings that killed 52 people on London’s transit system, including a plot to blow up several trans-Atlantic flights.
An Iraqi doctor appeared in court Saturday as the first suspect to face charges over a plot to bomb London’s entertainment district and Glasgow’s main airport.
Bilal Abdullah, a 27-year-old doctor born in Britain and raised in Iraq, is accused with another man of crashing a Jeep Cherokee laden with gas cylinders and gasoline into the terminal.
Iraqi authorities were gathering information about Abdullah and will cooperate with British authorities, Iraqi Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf said. He said the ministry was trying to establish whether Abdullah was part of al-Qaeda or belonged to other insurgent groups.
Seven other people are in the attacks — six in Britain and one in Australia — but have not been charged.
Two cars packed with gas cylinders and nails were discovered June 29 in the busy heart of London’s West End — one outside a crowded nightclub, the other near Trafalgar Square. The next day, a Jeep Cherokee smashed in flames into the security barriers at Glasgow airport.
The charge against Abdullah refers to a plot taking place between Jan. 1 and July 1, suggesting prosecutors believe the attacks were planned well in advance.
Prosecutors suspect Abdullah and Kafeel Ahmed, believed to be the driver of the Jeep, carried out the attempted bombings in London before returning to Scotland — where Abdullah worked at a Glasgow-area hospital — and attacking the airport.
Britain remains on “severe” terrorism alert — the second-highest level — following the attacks.
Ahmed is hospitalized in critical condition in Scotland with severe burns from the attack on the airport.
Ahmed, who is from Bangalore, India, holds a doctorate in aeronautical engineering and studied at Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and at Anglia Polytechnic University in Cambridge, England. Abdullah also lived for a time in Cambridge, a quiet university city north of London.
Another suspect is Sabeel Ahmed, 26, an Indian doctor arrested in Liverpool, who relatives confirmed in media reports is the brother of Kafeel Ahmed.
Most of the suspects worked for Britain’s health service and come from countries in the Middle East and India.