Mar 23 2010
Home Office says the threat of an Islamic terror attack using nuclear or chemical weapons is rising.
The threat of a terrorist attack using nuclear or chemical weapons is rising – and significant gaps have been identified in Britain’s ability to prevent it or cope with the aftermath.
Security minister Lord West made the chilling assessment as he published the first counter-terrorism strategy to prevent a ‘dirty bomb’ attack in this country.
The Home Office warned that the threat of terrorists spreading weapons of mass destruction is ‘more realistic’ than ever. And it said that intelligence chiefs are working round the clock to prevent a dirty bomb blast at the London Olympics.
The counter-terror documents reveal that a recent and still classified ‘review of counter terrorist related work since 9/11’ had identified ‘gaps’ in the capabilities of the security services. Among these is the need for more ‘stockpiling of drugs and vaccines.’ The report also outlines the need for more work to detect the use of chemical, biological or nuclear materials at the scene of an attack.
The document, produced by the Office of Security and Counter-Terrorism in the Home Office, found that the threat of a dirty bomb is rising because ‘there has been a significant increase in the trafficking of material which can be used in radiological and conceivably nuclear weapons.’
There have been 1,562 thefts and losses of potentially lethal material worldwide, and two out of three ‘have never been recovered’. The review also revealed that there were 200 arrests for terrorism in the UK in the 12 months to last September, up from 178 in the previous 12-month period. That led to charges being brought against 66 people, 24 for terrorism-related offences. By the end of the year, 11 people had been convicted.
Patrick Mercer, chairman of the Commons sub-committee on counter-terrorism, welcomed the publication of the report but called for swift action to address the threats it highlights. ‘It isn’t helpful having these shortages identified now. They should have been rectified months ago,’ he said. UK DAILY MAIL