Britain now #1 target for Al Qaeda.
UK: If any of the Muslim groups try to pull a "its your fault because of
Britain has become the main target for a resurgent al-Qaida, which has successfully regrouped and now presents a greater threat than ever before, according to counter-terrorist officials. They have revised their views about the strength of the network abroad, and the methods terrorists are able to use in the UK.
Intelligence chiefs with access to the most comprehensive and up to date information have told the Guardian that al-Qaida has substantially recovered its organisation in Pakistan, despite a four-year military campaign to seek out and kill its leaders. In that time, the organisation has become much more coherent, with a strong core and a regular supply of volunteers.
More worrying, officials say, is evidence of new techniques that would-be terrorists within the UK have adopted. The structure of individual al-Qaida-inspired groups is much more like the old Provisional IRA cells, with self-contained units comprising a lead organiser/planner, a quartermaster in charge of weapons and explosives acquisition and training, and several volunteers.
Officials describe these groups as "multi-tasking" - involved in fraud and fundraising and courier work as well as planning attacks. "There is a hierarchy within each cell with a very tightly run command and control," said one counter-terrorism source.
Many suspects appear to be aware they are under surveillance and have taken to having important conversations outside - in parks and other public spaces - similar to the tactics used by PIRA leaders during the Troubles.
Intelligence experts fear the UK is a target as never before, with extremists intent on carrying out a huge spectacular, on the scale of the US atrocities in 2001.
"They viewed 7/7 as just the beginning," said one senior source. "Al-Qaida sees the UK as a massive opportunity to cause loss of life and embarrassment to the authorities." A second source agreed: "Britain is sitting at the receiving end of an al-Qaida campaign."
Britain is an easier target, they have concluded, because of its traditional links with Pakistan which is visited by tens of thousands of people each year. Intelligence agencies have found it very difficult to penetrate the camps there.