Spy watchdog: UK under threat from jihadi bomb makers with ‘devilish technical skill’

July 5, 2014

Britain faces a new attack from jihadi bomb makers with the skill to make explosive devices concealed in mobile phones and tablet computers, parliament’s intelligence watchdog says today.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, warns that the British public has grown complacent about the threat of a terrorist attack on UK soil and that the lack of vigilance is “seriously disturbing”. The former Foreign Secretary, who received a secret intelligence briefing on the latest transatlantic airline bomb plot, says he has “no doubt” that extra security searches at airports are necessary.

Having occupied large swathes of Iraq, the Islamic State (Isis) is also now in a position to fund the research and development of more technologically advanced bomb-making equipment.

This week, the Department of Homeland Security in Washington will issue guidance to airports across Europe asking that new security checks on flights heading to the US are implemented. It is likely to lead to more stringent checks on passengers at British airports and longer queues, coinciding with the summer holiday getaway.

Writing in today’s Sunday Telegraph, Sir Malcolm says that in his position as chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, the parliamentary committee which oversees the secret operations of MI5 and MI6, he has been shown the evidence gathered by intelligence agencies which underpin a series of new security measures being introduced at British airports and across Europe.

His comments coincide with a stark warning made by Lord Carlile, the government’s former reviewer of terror legislation, who told The Sunday Telegraph that the Islamic State (Isis) now had funding on a par with a “large multinational corporation”. Lord Carlile said: “There is evidence Isis and its followers are capable of making much more sophisticated bombs. The step-change now is that Isis is very well-funded. The public needs to be aware this is a major terrorist organisation with funding comparable to a large multinational corporation and that they have the capacity to do research and make sophisticated bombs.” Lt Gen Sir Graeme Lamb, the former head of Britain’s Special Forces, writing for the Telegraph website, said it was imperative that the Home Office begin funding “novel science and security technologies” to combat ever more sophisticated bomb-making capabilities.

While intelligence about a growing terror threat against civilian airliners has been growing for some time, the decision to order increased checks was made in the past week. The latest terror alert was sparked by US intelligence picking up signals that al-Qaeda’s Yemeni and Syrian branches were colluding to try to bring down an aircraft.

Syria civil war: Hundreds of radicalised fighters are already back in the UK, warns former MI6 chief

June 22, 2014

Hundreds of veteran fighters from Syria and Iraq are already back in Britain, among them radicalised jihadists intent on mounting terror attacks. And British intelligence services face an “impossible” task in trying to track them, a leading security expert warned last night. The grim warning from Richard Barrett, the former head of counter-terrorism at MI6, who spent more than a decade tracking the Taliban for the United Nations, comes amid escalating fears over the threat posed by returning foreign fighters from the twin conflicts. Mr Barrett estimated that “possibly up to 300 people have come back to the UK” already.

Further evidence of the British links with jihadists in Iraq emerged yesterday with confirmation that gap-year student Nasser Muthana, 20, from Cardiff, was one of a number of Britons who feature in a film posted online to recruit fighters. In the propaganda film, the medical student says: “Oh you who believe, answer the call of Allah and his messenger when he calls you …. What gives you life is jihad.” In the video, released by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis), he speaks of the “brothers” he fights alongside. Two other men who claim to be British – along with two Australians – also feature in the film, titled: “There is no life without jihad.”

Mr Barrett is co-author of a new report, released this month, which states that the Syrian war “is likely to be an incubator for a new generation of terrorists” and reveals that more than 12,000 foreign fighters have gone to Syria since the war began. That is more than the 10,000 who went to Afghanistan during the decade-long jihad against Russian occupation. One in four foreign fighters in Syria is from the West – part of a global phenomenon, with fighters from more than 80 countries represented on the battlefield.

The report cites the importance in securing the support of the communities that fighters return to, both for “successful reintegration” and for “identifying them and sorting out which of them may pose the greatest threat”. Around 500 people from Britain have joined the ranks of Isis, and tracking British jihadists fighting in Syria is now the top priority for British intelligence, it emerged.