Britain’s Threat Evolves

Posted: August 12, 2008 in HSToday
Tags: , ,

My latest in the HST magazine, have been travelling in a place where i couldn’t access this, so hence the delay in uploading it…..substantially shortened from what i had already written, but i think i will re-pitch the whole thing elsewhere. Also, am planning on expanding some of the ideas in some bigger articles for somewhere else.. 


Thursday, 31 July 2008

Since the July 7, 2005, public transport attacks in London, there has been an almost constant stream of attempts or foiled attempts on British soil, perpetrated for the most part by British nationals.

In the face of this diet of threat, it has become somewhat hard to discern whether there are any broad trends to be discerned about radical Islamists, aside from the broad generalization that they tend to be Muslims in their 20s and 30s. Even the old assumption that attackers would come from the United Kingdom’s second- or third-generation South Asian immigrant families appears to be increasingly challenged, with the exposure of two separate plots apparently conducted by white converts in April and May of this year. (See this author’s previous coverage of British homeland security in the HSToday archives at

Theories and causes

One theory holds that Britain is in the midst of something of a threat transformation. A first wave of radicals fulfilled the preliminary profile of disaffected youths radicalized before Sept. 11, 2001. These were driven to action by the Western invasion of Afghanistan. A number of these young British men had been involved with a radical splinter group of the Islamist group Hizb Ut Tahrir, called Al Muhajiroun (The Emigrants), and been radicalized by extremist clerics like Abu Hamza al Masri (he of the fabled hook hands) or Abu Qatada (a man described as Al Qaeda’s ambassador in Europe who was recently released under highly stringent bail conditions in the United Kingdom) and Omar Bakri Mohammed (who lives and broadcasts freely from Beirut).

The nature of this first wave is being most recently uncovered in the current trial just outside London of the people who allegedly plotted to blow up eight aircraft as they flew from Britain to North America. They were arrested in August 2006 and, while the trial was ongoing as of this writing, preliminary indications are that this group was linked to camps in Pakistan, where other plotters trained.

For example, the alleged ringleader in Pakistan of the plot, a British-Pakistani dual national named Rachid Rauf, who was arrested days before police swept and arrested the plotters in the United Kingdom (and who subsequently escaped from Pakistani custody in December 2007), was apparently in contact with an Al Qaeda commander in Pakistan, Abdul Hadi al Iraqi. Abdul Hadi was apparently the one who gave the orders to “go and do something in the UK” to a group who intended to blow up a series of public locations in the United Kingdom with massive fertilizer bombs and was also apparently connected to the July 7, and subsequent July 21, attempts.


Loners and losers

Since this plot was uncovered, terrorist attempts have all tended to be of a far more limited nature, such as the double vehicle-borne attacks on the London and Glasgow airports and a bombing attempt by white convert Nicky Reilly that literally blew up in his face.

Later efforts have been by lone, would-be terrorists who have only tenuous physical connection with Al Qaeda—for some, in fact, there has been no distinct (or prosecutable) connection with other terrorist groups or plotters. The only clearly discernible connection is the Internet.

The possibility exists that we are starting to see the threat to the United Kingdom, specifically (and the West, more generally), evolve toward what Al Qaeda theorist Abu Musab al Suri described as a “global insurgency.”

It is hard to come by empirical evidence to absolutely prove that people are actually being driven by this strategic concept or are simply naturally falling toward it as what were previously safe havens fall under closer scrutiny. However, the reality remains that the United Kingdom is facing a threat that appears to be undergoing another paradigm shift and shows no sign of shrinking any time soon.

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