Vol No: 83,
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Blue watch

'Thousands' pose UK terror threat

THERE are at least 2,000 people in the UK who pose a threat to national security because of their support for terrorism, the head of MI5 has said.

Jonathan Evans said there had been a rise of 400 since November 2006.

He said children as young as 15 were being recruited for terrorist-related activity by al- Qaeda.

Resources that could be devoted to counter-terrorism were instead being used to protect the UK against spying by Russia, China and others, he added.

There had been "no decrease" in the number of Russian covert intelligence officers operating in the UK since the end of the Cold War, Mr Evans said in a speech in Manchester.

"A number of countries continue to devote considerable time and energy trying to steal our sensitive technology on civilian and military projects, and trying to obtain political and economic intelligence at our expense."

It was "a matter of some disappointment", he said, that this ongoing threat continued to take up significant amounts of equipment, money and staff.

'Deliberate campaign' Mr Evans took over as director general of MI5 in April from Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller.

We will do our utmost to hold back the physical threat of attacks, but alone, this is merely containment Jonathan Evans MI5 director-general Speaking at the Society of Editors' annual conference, he said the number of individuals in the UK causing concern had risen in part due to better intelligence gathering in "extremist communities".

"But it is also because there remains a steady flow of new recruits to the extremist cause."

In order to gather recruits, Mr Evans said, extremists were methodically and intentionally targeting vulnerable young people and children. The UK had to do more protect these young people, he added.

Mr Evans said attacks on the UK were "not simply random plots by disparate and fragmented groups", but part of a "deliberate campaign" by al-Qaeda.

In the past 12 months, MI5 had found links between an increasing range of countries and terror plots in the UK, he said.

In Iraq, Algeria and parts of East Africa, especially Somalia, he said, the "al- Qaeda brand" had expanded and now posed a threat to the UK.

'Root causes'
Mr Evans said he did not think the level of terror threat against the UK had "reached its peak".

We will do our utmost to hold back the physical threat of attacks, but alone, this is merely containment.

"Long-term resolution requires identifying and addressing the root causes of the problem."

He said it was "inevitable" there would be individuals who came to police or security service attention, but were still able to go on to carry out acts of terrorism.

"Every decision by the security service to investigate someone entails a decision not to investigate someone else. Knowing of somebody is not the same as knowing all about somebody."

Mr Evans also announced that MI5's new Northern Ireland headquarters would soon be formally opened and said that by 2011 25% of the service's staff would be based outside London.


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