Richard Norton-Taylor, Vikram Dodd, and Hugh Muir / The (London) Guardian – 2005-07-21 09:51:59
LONDON (July 20, 2005) — Fresh evidence emerged yesterday that the government was privately warned by the intelligence agencies that the conflict in Iraq could provoke terrorist acts in Britain and compound anger among young British Muslims.
A month before the July 7 London bombings, security and intelligence officials warned that “events in Iraq are continuing to act as motivation and a focus of a range of terrorist-related activity in the UK.”
The warning was issued by the Joint Terrorist Analysis Centre (Jtac), British officials confirmed yesterday. Sections of the report were published by the New York Times newspaper. A link between the government’s foreign policy and disillusion among young Muslims – strenuously denied by ministers – was also made in a paper prepared for Tony Blair on the orders of the home and foreign secretaries last year.
The paper, Young Muslims and Extremism, which included input from the security services, said British foreign policy “seems a particularly strong cause of disillusionment amongst Muslims, including young Muslims”.
It referred to “a perceived ‘double standard’ in the foreign policy of western governments … in particular Britain and the US”.
The paper describes “perceived western bias in Israel’s favour” as a long-running grievance. It adds: “This perception seems to have become more acute post 9/11. The perception is that passive ‘oppression’, as demonstrated by British foreign policy, eg non-action on Kashmir and Chechnya, has given way to ‘active oppression’.” The war on terror, Iraq and Afghanistan were all seen by a section of British Muslims as being acts against Islam.
“This disillusionment may contribute to a sense of helplessness with regard to the situation of Muslims in the world, with a lack of any tangible ‘pressure valves’, in order to vent frustrations, anger or dissent,” said the paper.
Despite this warning last month, Jtac lowered its terrorist threat level on the grounds that there was thought to be no single “group with both the current intent and the capability to attack the UK”.
A Concern for Individuals and Groups
But it added: “Whilst the threat from al-Qaida leadership-directed plots have not gone away, many of our current concerns focus on a wide range and large number of extremist networks and individuals in the UK and individuals and groups that are inspired by, but only loosely affiliated to, al-Qaida or are entirely autonomous.’
“Some of these have the potential to plan UK attacks and it is also possible that lone extremists or small groups could attempt lower-level attacks.”
The mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, yesterday suggested the four suicide bombers were prompted – at least in part – by long-standing grievances.
During his weekly press briefing at City Hall, Mr Livingstone said he could not read the bombers’ minds but added: “I think there were several levels that led those young men to come to London to kill. One is 85 years of western intervention in the affairs of the Middle East.”
He said the west had repeatedly meddled “because we wished to preserve oil supplies”, adding: “I think for the last nearly 60 years we have this terrible running sore of the dispossession of the Palestinians which is the single most important wound in the Islamic psyche.”
The mayor also rounded on media critics of the Muslim cleric Yusef al-Qaradawi, amid reports that the controversial theologian is coming to Britain for a conference early next month. Newspapers accuse the cleric of supporting suicide bombing and have called for him to be banned.
Egypt said yesterday that Magdi el-Nashar, a detained chemist wanted by Britain for questioning over the London bombings, had no links to the attacks nor to al-Qaida.
A group called Abu Hafs al Masri Brigades, an al-Qaida-linked group, threatened yesterday to launch “a bloody war” on the capitals of European countries that do not remove their troops from Iraq within a month.
The group has no proven record of attacks, and experts have doubted its claims in the past.
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