MI5 chief warns of terror threat from Britons trained in Somalia

Jonathan Evans says 'significant number' of UK residents are now training in al-Shabaab camps

The head of MI5 has warned that Britain faces a growing threat of terrorist attacks from UK residents trained in Somalia and from dissident Irish republicans.

Jonathan Evans has also made plain that in the Security Service's view the government must maintain special control orders for terror suspects in its forthcoming review of anti-terror laws.

"The government cannot absolve itself of the responsibility to protect its citizens just because the criminal law cannot, in particular circumstances, serve the purposes," Evans said. He added that the potential danger to Britain of extremists influenced by al-Qaida had shifted to Somalia from the tribal areas of Pakistan, which now accounts for half, rather than 75%, of all terror plots linked to Britain.

Evans said "a significant number of UK residents" were training in al-Shabaab camps to fight in the insurgency in Somalia. "I am concerned that it's only a matter of time before we see terrorism on our streets inspired by those who are today fighting alongside al-Shabaab."

UK residents training and fighting in Somalia are thought to number more than 100. They are believed to be of various origins, including Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and west African. MI6, Britain's secret intelligence service, is also increasingly concerned about the spread of al-Qaida inspired jihadists across Africa, according to counter-terrorist officials.

"Al-Shabaab, an Islamist militia in Somalia, is closely aligned with al-Qaida, and Somalia shows many of the characteristics that made Afghanistan so dangerous a seedbed for terrorism in the period before the fall of the Taliban," Evans said.

British officials believe Somalia is now a more serious base for potential attacks on the UK than Yemen where an al-Qaida affiliate developed the "underpants bomb" that failed to blow up an aircraft.

Evans, in his speech yesterday to the Worshipful Company of Security Professionals, in the City of London, also warned of more "signs of co-ordination and co-operation" between dissident republic splinter groups in Northern Ireland. They had mounted or planned 30 attacks so far this year, as against just over 20 for all of 2009, mainly targeted at the security services, he said, describing the dissidents' political base as "small and localised".

Their support is believed to amount to some 600 individuals , including former members of the provisional IRA . The support is less than half that enjoyed by the provisional IRA in its heyday in the 1980s, but members are continuing to be recruited.

Evans also warned of the potential for a terror attack during the 2012 Olympics.

"We should not underestimate the challenge of mounting the games securely in an environment with a high terrorist threat, the first time this has been attempted."

He delivered a clear message to the coalition government and its supporters, who, before the general election, promised to cast away many of Labour's anti-terror laws on the grounds that they threatened civil liberties, saying last night: "The secret nature of this struggle [investigating people suspected of involvement in terrorism] makes it hard for those not directly involved to understand some of the skirmishes that come into the public domain."

He said he preferred to face criticism when there was no prosecution than see a plot come to fruition because MI5 had not acted soon enough.

Nine Britons suspected of having links to terrorism are subject to control orders, the home secretary, Theresa May, confirmed this week.


Richard Norton-Taylor

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
The real question about the terror suspect who fled in a burqa: did MI5 bring him here illegally?

Mohammed Ahmed Mohamed's escape was an embarrassment. The alleged torture and rendition that came before it might just be a major scandal. By Ian Cobain, writes Ian Cobain

Ian Cobain

13, Nov, 2013 @6:40 PM

Article image
Al-Shabaab training UK residents to fight in Somalia
MI5 and MI6 believe more than 100 people from Britain have been involved with Islamist militia and end up as 'cannon fodder'

Richard Norton-Taylor

01, Nov, 2011 @5:33 PM

Article image
Kenyans allege British involvement in rendition and torture in Uganda
Claims by two Muslims accused of role in bomb attack during 2010 World Cup date from after coalition came to power

Ian Cobain

24, Apr, 2012 @9:34 PM

Article image
UK facing most severe terror threat ever, warns MI5 chief
Head of intelligence service says more attacks are inevitable as Britain sees ‘dramatic upshift’ in Islamist terrorism

Vikram Dodd Police and crime correspondent

17, Oct, 2017 @6:11 PM

Article image
MI5 and police reduce UK terror threat from 'severe' to 'substantial'
Killing of Osama bin Laden and other encouraging world events make Mumbai-style attack less likely, say officials

Richard Norton-Taylor and Alan Travis

11, Jul, 2011 @5:26 PM

MI5 chief warns of terror threat to food industry
The head of MI5, Eliza Manningham-Buller, warned last night of the possibility of terrorist attacks on the food and chemical industries.

Richard Norton-Taylor

17, Oct, 2003 @1:48 AM

Article image
Former MI5 chief urges terrorist talks
Lady Eliza Manningham-Buller says talking to terror groups, including al-Qaida, requires courage but 'is necessary'

Richard Norton-Taylor

12, Sep, 2011 @11:42 PM

Article image
British 'al-Qaida member' killed in US drone attack in Somalia
Bilal el-Berjawi, from London, reportedly died in missile strike outside Mogadishu while allegedly fighting alongside Islamist insurgents

Ian Cobain

22, Jan, 2012 @5:26 PM

Article image
Jihadists in Africa could pose terror threat to UK, warns thinktank
Al-Qaida affiliates in north and east Africa could radicalise new subset of British youths, says report

Richard Norton-Taylor

03, Apr, 2012 @11:05 PM

Article image
British army unit will tackle threat from female suicide bombers
New team will operate in east Africa supporting victims of coercion and sexual violence

Pippa Crerar Deputy political editor

07, Aug, 2018 @6:00 AM