Britain publishes new anti-terror strategy

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Britain faces an increased threat of a chemical or even nuclear terrorist attack and is at risk from extremists in Pakistan and Somalia.
That is the view contained in the country`s new counter-terrorism strategy, which adds that al-Qaeda is becoming weaker but that there is a growing threat from “self-starting” militants and of attacks using chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.
“There is the potential (for such an attack), given the international situation, what we believe to be the aspirations of some international terrorists,” says Home Secretary Jacqui Smith.
AFP reports the 174-page strategy, the first unclassified document including an official assessment of the threat facing Britain, outlines the history of the threat and forecasts how it will evolve.
Smith told members of Parliament in the House of Commons that the strategy’s publication was intended to “reassure the public that we are doing all in our power to protect this country through our relentless pursuit of terrorists and our determination to prevent violent extremism”.
Britain, a key US ally in the so-called war on terror launched after the September 11, 2001 attacks, has been on high alert since suicide bombings in London in July 2005 which killed 52 people plus the attackers.
Security was also ratcheted up after failed car bomb attacks in London and Glasgow, after Prime Minister Gordon Brown took office in 2007, AFP adds.
At present, Britain’s terrorism threat level is at “severe”, the fourth-highest of five levels, indicating there is a “high likelihood” of future attacks.
A senior Home Office official highlighted threats posed notably by Pakistan and Somalia, as well as Yemen and countries in sub-Saharan Africa, which he said were problematic because of their relative instability.
“Pakistan weaves its way through virtually everything in this strategy,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, underlining “the importance we attach to the huge amount of work we’re doing in (Pakistan)”.
“We’ve got very big collaborative programmes with the Pakistani authorities, the new government … we’re very interested in working with them,” he said.
Pakistan has faced increasing threats from extremism in recent months, including a suicide attack outside a special police office in Islamabad on Monday which killed a police guard and wounded three other people.
The country, a key US ally, has been hit by around 200 suicide and bomb attacks that have killed more than 1600 people since government forces fought radical gunmen holed up in a mosque in Islamabad in July 2007.
Sky News television said Tuesday that 20 Britons monitored by Pakistani intelligence and believed to have spent time with radical groups had returned here, with Islamabad reportedly set to hand over a dossier of their names soon.
Asked what other countries had garnered increased attention on the counter-terrorism front since the strategy was last published in 2006, the official listed Somalia, Yemen, Mali and Niger.
He added: “I don’t think we’ve finished worrying about Iraq, and we certainly haven’t finished worrying about Afghanistan.”
The strategy predicted, meanwhile, that though Al-Qaeda itself was “likely to fragment”, its ideology would survive, possibly leading to an increased number of “self-starting” terror groups.
“Networks and groups associated with Al-Qaeda will have more autonomy,” it said, adding: “As the structure of Al-Qaeda changes, the terrorist threat in and to the UK may diversify towards smaller ‘self-starting’ organisations.”