Iraq has become a dominant issue for Islamic extremists in Britain, MI5 has admitted.
AIn a fresh analysis of the threat facing Britain from international terrorist groups, the acknowledgement underlines the view of the security and intelligence services that Iraq has provided an extra motivating force for terrorists.
Contributing to the agencys official website after the July 7 bombings, under the heading Threat to the UK from international terrorism, a team of MI5 analysts concludes: Though they have a range of aspirations and causes, Iraq is a dominant issue for a range of extremist groups and individuals in the UK and Europe.
Beyond the position that each country has adopted on Iraq, I must say that the risk is global, as we have just seen in the bombing in Egypt.
Spanish Prime MiJose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero
fter the suicide bombings in London, Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, said there was no connection between them and the war in Iraq. This conflicted with a leaked assessment by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, based at MI5 and run by a Ministry of Defence official, which claimed, three weeks before July 7 that Iraq was continuing to act as a focus of a range of terrorist related activities in Britain.
The latest MI5 assessment sticks to the view that there is a link between Iraq and terrorist activities. In their website analysis, the MI5 officers add: Some individuals who support the insurgency are known to have travelled to Iraq in order to fight against coalition forces. It is possible that they may return to the UK and consider mounting attacks here.
However, the Spanish Prime Minister yesterday backed Tony Blairs assertions that countries were under threat from Islamic terrorism regardless of the Iraq war. Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, elected last year after the Madrid bombings, carried through his pledge to withdraw Spanish troops from serving in Iraq.
After talks with Mr Blair at No 10, he said that his country had been on a heightened state of alert despite pulling its 1,300 troops out of Iraq more than a year ago. Beyond the position that each country has adopted on Iraq, I must say that the risk is global, as we have just seen in the bombing in Egypt, he said.
The Security Service analysts acknowledge that gathering intelligence on the terrorist cells operating covertly in Britain is difficult because they use clandestine methods to communicate and shield their activities.
Confirming for the first time the likely link between the London bombers and an international group such as al-Qaeda, MI5 says: The bombings in London on July 7 were the first successful attacks in the UK by individuals thought to be associated with international terrorism since the US attacks of September 11 2001.
Both British and foreign nationals linked to or sympathetic with al-Qaeda are known to be present within the UK.
© 2005 Times Newspapers Ltd.