British intelligence claims Great Britain is now the home to at least 200 potential suicide bombers actively planning terror attacks inside the country and beyond. The news serves to underscore Britain’s growing role as a center of terrorist development.
In a report to the British government, intelligence leaders from both of Britain’s security intelligence services, MI6 and MI5, cite the 200 would-be suicide bombers as part of the more than 2,000 British-based Muslim terrorists who are currently engaged in terror activities in the United Kingdom.
The warnings come as Britain prepares to play host to the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, an event that offers a prime venue for suicide bombers. Despite the heavy security precautions already underway, British officials say potential suicide bombers would probably avoid high security areas and focus on more vulnerable targets where large groups congregate, such as shopping districts and train stations.
According to one explosives expert, the devastation caused by just one explosive vest packed with ball bearings could kill hundreds if detonated in an area densely filled with people. Sadly, the British are all too familiar with the devastating effects of such a bombing, having experienced the London suicide bombings that killed 52 people and wounded more than 700 in July 2005.
Of course, the threat posed by suicide bombers has been on the radar of British intelligence for quite a while. Those fears were fully articulated in Wikileaks documents released in February 2011 that cite British intelligence officials fearing Britain would soon be facing a “wave” of suicide attacks from British-based Muslim terrorists trained in Pakistan.
Those fears came closer to fruition when in September 2011 seven British Muslim men were arrested in the British city of Birmingham and charged with planning a suicide terror attack. Two of the men were charged with traveling to Pakistan where they received terrorist training that included how to make bombs, poison and weapons. Before returning back to England, the pair took time to make several suicide martyrdom videos.
Unfortunately, Britain’s role as a breeding ground for suicide bombers has been on display for some time, beginning with famed Shoe Bomber, Richard Reid. Reid, who converted to Islam in the mid-1990s, was sentenced to life without parole in a US prison for trying to kill 197 people on board an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami in December 2001.
For Reid, his journey of Islamic radicalization was nurtured in the mosques of London. However, other Muslim suicide zealots have received their martyrdom inspiration in the increasingly fertile grounds of Britain’s schools of higher education.
In June 2011, a British government report cited 40 English universities at increased risk for the Islamist radicalization and terrorist recruitment of their Muslim students by hard line Islamic groups. To that end, the report noted that 45 percent of the people in Britain who have been convicted of “al-Qaeda-associated terror offenses” have been graduates or attendees of British universities.
Unhappily, those British schools have either been too slow to respond to the growing Islamist threat or have turned a blind eye. Yet, as one British security expert said, these schools “have got to realize that you don’t get suicide bombers unless they have first been radicalized.”
For example, Nigerian-born “Underwear Bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who recently pled guilty to a failed suicide airline bombing in Detroit in 2009, is believed to have been inspired to martyrdom during his time studying at University College London, where he was president of the school’s Islamic Society.
British security officials suspected that Abdulmutallab had been initially recruited by al-Qaeda operatives in London before leaving to train in Yemen with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a claim echoed in 2010 by Yemen’s Deputy Prime Minister Rashad Al Alimi.
In addition to Abdulmutallab, other former British student suicide bombers include Omar Sheikh, who beheaded Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002; Omar Khan Sharif, who carried out a suicide bomb attack on a bar in Tel Aviv in 2003; and Abdullah Ahmed Ali, the leader of a failed liquid suicide bomb plot to blow up 10 trans-Atlantic flights in 2006.
Most recently, Iraq-born and Swedish citizen Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly, who had spent the last decade studying at London’s University of Luton, blew himself up and injured two others in Stockholm in December 2010.
However, not all British-based Islamist terrorists take the educational route to become suicide bombers. Rajib Karim, a Bangladesh-born British resident, was a British Airways employee who was convicted in February 2011 for conspiring with AQAP’s recently killed propagandist and strategist, Anwar al-Awlaki, to commit a suicide terror attack on the scale of 9⁄11.
To carry out the plan, Karim, a former fundraiser for the al-Qaeda linked terror organization Jamaat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh, joined British Airways as a software engineer specifically to provide al-Awlaki critical information on British Airway’s computer and security systems. Then, in an effort to achieve his own martyrdom by blowing up an airliner, Karim applied for training as a British Airway’s cabin crew member shortly before he was arrested in February 2010.
Sadly, the problem of British-based Muslim terrorism isn’t going away any time soon. As one intelligence official said, “This is a generational problem we are facing.” That generational problem, unfortunately, also includes large numbers of British Muslims going overseas to receive terrorist training.
According to a 2010 report by the Centre for Social Cohesion, it estimated that since 9⁄11 over 4,000 British Muslims have attended terrorist training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan. In addition to the Afghan-Pak connection, Somalia has also surfaced as a new terrorist training locale. British authorities say increasing numbers of Britons of both Somali and Pakistani origin have embarked on “jihad tourism” to Somalia to attend terrorist training camps run by Somalia’s al-Qaeda linked al-Shabaab.
The net effect of all these activities has been to turn Britain into what a former British terrorism official called “a hub for the development of terrorists.” Unfortunately, with 200 potential suicide bombers now roaming freely throughout Britain, that hub just grew far more dangerous.