3 Nov 2010

Al-Qaeda member held in Britain

An alleged member of al-Qaeda, thought to be part of the group blamed for the plane bomb plot, is being held in the UK as the government says more will be done to target terrorism overseas.

Anti-terror drive as al-Qaeda member arrested in Britain

Home Secretary Theresa May said today it was highly likely British extremists “trained and hardened” on the streets of Somalia may try to return to “commit mass murder on the streets of London”.

Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute, the Home Secretary revealed that an “associate” of terror cell al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) was arrested in the UK earlier this year and is suspected of “planning a terrorist attack in this country”.

The extremist group has been widely blamed for the printer bombs found on cargo planes bound for the US last week.

After a Saudi intelligence tipoff, two packages were found at East Midlands Airport and in Dubai last Friday containing explosives which officials said would have detonated on their journey to the US.

From his base in Yemen, al-Qaeda leader and US national, Anwar al-Awlaki, is believed to have masterminded the attack.

People from this country have already gone to Somalia to fight. It seems highly likely… we would eventually see British extremists, trained and hardened on the streets of Mogadishu returning to the UK and seeking to commit mass murder. Theresa May

Counter-terrorism review

Ms May said today the government’s review of its counter-terrorism strategy, due to be published later this year, will include “significant changes” leading to a “much better balance”.

“Where necessary we will enhance our protective security measures; we will invest in conflict prevention and stopping terrorist plots overseas,” he said.

“We will refocus the strategy for preventing radicalisation in the UK; and we will strike a better balance between our liberties and our security.”

She added: “I want an approach which is more targeted against extremist individuals, but that impacts much less on the good people of our communities.

Al-Qaeda affiliates in Yemen, Somalia and North Africa pose real threats to the UK. Mi6 chief

“And I want an approach that is effective in dealing with an evolving threat. That is what we will deliver.”

Mrs May went on: “Most threats to the UK continue to come from the federally-administered tribal areas of Pakistan.

“When we have a Pakistani diaspora of over one million people, and there are hundreds of thousands of journeys between our countries every year, what goes on in Pakistan matters on the streets of Britain.”

Anwar al-Awlaki

Yemen warning

It is not the first time in recent weeks that the terror threat from Yemen has been highlighted by senior government and security figures.

Anwar al-Awlaki (pictured right) was the only terror suspect mentioned in last week’s unprecedented speech by the head of MI6 John Sawers.

In the “historic” speech, the chief of Britain’s Security Intelligence Service warned that parts of Africa and Yemen posed threats to the national security of the UK.

“It’s not just the border areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Al-Qaeda affiliates in Yemen, Somalia and North Africa pose real threats to the UK,” he said.

“From his remote base in Yemen, al-Qaeda leader and US national Anwar al-Awlaki, broadcasts propaganda and terrorist instruction in fluent English, over the internet.”

Extremist videos

Today it was reported that the video sharing website YouTube has begun removing al-Qaeda videos – some of which feature al-Awlaki. The news came after a senior government minister warned the US that more needed to remove ‘jihadi’ videos from American websites.

Student Roshonara Choudhry was today sentenced to life in prison for stabbing an MP as “punishment” for his support for the war in Iraq. Choudhry is believed to have been influenced by extremist Islamic sermons on the internet.