Arab Spring spawning new generation of terrorists -- MI5
The Arab Spring has spawned a new generation of British-born terrorists after al-Qa'ida moved into unstable countries and began training potential bombers for possible attacks on the UK, the head of MI5 warned last night.
Jonathan Evans said the terrorist network had taken advantage of the revolutions that began last year to spread its influence and create new bases for planning attacks.
British jihadis were known to be receiving training in countries such as Libya and Egypt, mirroring what has happened in the Yemen and Somalia, he claimed.
They could return to attack Britain in what was a "new and worrying development", he said.
Mr Evans, the director general of MI5, warned of the emerging threats in a rare speech, his first in almost two years. He also said that:
• The intelligence services and police were preparing for potential threats from extremists and "lone wolf" terrorists should the eurozone collapse.
• Cyber attacks were causing "real world damage", with one British company suffering estimated losses of £800m (€1bn) after its computers were hacked.
• There was a renewed threat of state-sponsored terrorism from Iran and associates such as Hezbollah.
• It would be "extraordinary and self-defeating" if government proposals to give the security services greater powers to snoop on emails and phone calls were blocked.
The popular revolts in Arab nations won widespread acclaim, with Western leaders welcoming the demise of Hosni Mubarak's rule in Egypt and Muammar Gaddafi's regime in Libya, among others.
But in the inaugural Lord Mayor's Annual Defence and Security Lecture in London, Mr Evans warned that a new terrorist threat had emerged from an "Arab world in radical transition".
He said that, while events offered hope in the long term, there was a "more immediate problem" as al-Qa'ida returned home.
"Today parts of the Arab world have once more become a permissive environment for al-Qa'ida," he said. "This is the completion of a cycle: al-Qai'da first moved to Afghanistan in the 1990s due to pressure in their Arab countries of origin. They moved on to Pakistan after the fall of the Taliban.
"And now some are heading home to the Arab world again. And a small number of British would-be jihadis are also making their way to Arab countries to seek training and opportunities for militant activity, as they do in Somalia and Yemen.
Figures published last year suggested that more than 100 Britons had received training from terrorist groups in Somalia. It is feared that many are now attending al-Qa'ida camps in Yemen, Egypt and Libya.
Suggestions that al-Qa'ida's threat had "evaporated" following the death of Osama bin Laden were wide of the mark, Mr Evans said, adding that Britain had "experienced a credible terrorist attack plot about once a year since 9/11". (© Daily Telegraph, London)