10 November, 2006

Jihad: the next generation

In a speech yesterday (full text of the speech) Eliza Manningham-Buller, the head of MI5, said that the security services are monitoring 200 groups and 1600 individuals who are currently posing a terrorist threat to the UK. She continued,

The extremists are motivated by a sense of grievance and injustice driven by their interpretation of the history between the West and the Muslim world. This view is shared, in some degree, by a far wider constituency. If the opinion polls conducted in the UK since July 2005 are only broadly accurate, over 100,000 of our citizens consider that the July 2005 attacks in London were justified.

What we see at the extreme end of the spectrum are resilient networks, some directed from Al-Qaida in Pakistan, some more loosely inspired by it, planning attacks including mass casualty suicide attacks in the UK. Today we see the use of home-made improvised explosive devices; tomorrow's threat may include the use of chemicals, bacteriological agents, radioactive materials and even nuclear technology. More and more people are moving from passive sympathy towards active terrorism through being radicalised or indoctrinated by friends, families, in organised training events here and overseas, by images on television, through chat rooms and websites on the Internet.

The propaganda machine is sophisticated and Al-Qaida itself says that 50% of its war is conducted through the media. In Iraq, attacks are regularly videoed and the footage downloaded onto the Internet within 30 minutes. Virtual media teams then edit the result, translate it into English and many other languages, and package it for a worldwide audience. And, chillingly, we see the results here. Young teenagers being groomed to be suicide bombers.

We are aware of numerous plots to kill people and to damage our economy. What do I mean by numerous? Five? Ten? No, nearer thirty - that we know of. These plots often have links back to Al-Qaida in Pakistan and through those links Al-Qaida gives guidance and training to its largely British foot soldiers here on an extensive and growing scale.
In the context of Manningham-Buller's speech, the Times, often a good guide to establishment thinking, examines how the threat can be countered and is in favour of a UK equivalent to the US Department of Homeland Security. The obvious problem with that is, bureaucratic solutions are rarely effective. If MI5 is going to be able to tackle the problem effectively then, above all else, it needs adequate resources. It is doubtful whether the government is actually providing what MI5 needs.

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