Two years after 7/7, Britain still top terror target


London : The recent failed car bomb attacks in Britain have reinforced the findings of terrorism experts that two years after the 7/7 suicide bombings in London, Britain is Europe's top target for Al Qaeda-linked terrorism.

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The second anniversary on July 7 of the suicide attacks on London Underground (Tube) trains and a bus, in which 52 people were killed and more than 700 injured, is being marked in a mood of gloom and despondency.

A low-key wreath-laying ceremony will be held at King's Cross station Saturday to mark the spot which became the focus for floral tributes following the attacks two years ago.

But the families of the victims say that their grief is still "unbearably raw," and have chosen to mark the second anniversary privately.

Many of them remain at odds with the government over the authorities' persistent refusal to hold a public inquiry into the 7/7 events in London.

Analysts have said that, judging by the rhetoric of the Al Qaeda leadership, the US doubtless remains the "number one target," but the "greatest risk of being killed by a terrorist is elsewhere."

The wave of radicalisation of young Muslims triggered by September 11, 2001 and its aftermath had "washed up on the other side of the Atlantic," leaving the countries of Europe as the western societies most at risk.

Within Europe, Britain appeared to face the gravest threat. For the fourth successive year, British police and security services had been overwhelmed by the number and scale of the plots they have encountered.

Peter Clarke, Britain's anti-terrorism chief, overspent his budget of 100 million pounds (US$200 million) by 21 million pounds last year, the Financial Times reported.

The police and intelligence agencies are thought to be monitoring 30 current plots, 200 suspected terrorist cells and close to 2,000 known suspects, intelligence sources say.

The prime focus in recent years has been to counter the domestic threat from radicals who visit Pakistan for training in terrorist camps, such as the July 7 bombers.

But the recent attempted car bombings, following methods adopted by radicals in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East, are seen as marking a "grisly new milestone" in Britain's terror threat."

Intelligence officials describe a highly organised process of radicalisation among some British Muslims, taking place in prisons, universities, mosques and even, as the failed June attacks have suggested, in hospitals.

The scale of the threat is amplified, officials say, by the ability of the radicals to travel to Pakistan, with some 400,000 journeys made to that country every year from Britain.

The picture is different in other parts of Europe, according to experts. In Spain, France, Italy and Germany, the main threat appeared to come from groups linked to northern Africa.