September 1, 2006

UK police say suspect thousands of terrorism links

LONDON (Reuters) - British police are watching thousands of
British Muslims who they suspect may be involved in or support
terrorism, the head of London police's anti-terrorist branch
said on Friday.

The figure given by Peter Clarke in a BBC interview was
higher than previous official estimates and came as police
investigate an alleged plot by a group of British Muslims to
blow up U.S.-bound airliners using liquid explosives.

In July last year four British Islamist suicide bombers
killed themselves and 52 other people at rush hour on public
transport in London.

Asked how many British Muslims police were looking at
because they suspected them of direct or indirect involvement
in terrorism, Clarke said: "Our knowledge is increasing, and
certainly in terms of broad description of the numbers of
people who we have to be interested in, we are into the

Clarke said he was referring to "not just terrorists, not
just attackers, but the people who might be tempted to support
or encourage," according to the BBC's Web site.

"What we've learned and what we've seen all too graphically
and all too murderously is that we have a threat which is being
generated here within the United Kingdom," Clarke added.

Clarke was interviewed by BBC reporter Peter Taylor, who
concluded after a year-long investigation into radical Islam
that the conflict in Iraq was the main reason young Muslims
were being radicalized.

The government has rejected allegations that its backing
for the Iraq war had raised the risk of terrorist attack.

Taylor also found there was a so-called pipeline from
Britain that channeled recruits to Iraq via Syria.

Clarke said: "What we do see is individuals with
connections who are happy to try to organize the travel of

Clarke said British police knew who some of these people
were but declined to say if they were under surveillance.

Eleven British Muslims have been charged with conspiracy to
murder and planning acts of terrorism over the suspected plot
to blow up airliners over the Atlantic.

Four people are accused of lesser offences and five others
are still being questioned but have not been charged.