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Al-Qaeda threat to Brown before India visit

British intelligence agencies are reported to be investigating an alleged Al-Qaeda threat to the life of the British Prime Minister.

world Updated: Jan 16, 2008 16:34 IST

British intelligence agencies were on Wednesday reported to be investigating an alleged Al-Qaeda threat to the life of Prime Minister Gordon Brown just before he leaves on a tour of India and China next week.

The investigations follow claims that an Islamist website is setting up a branch of Al-Qaeda in Britain. The site, www.alekhlaas.net, speaks of "the creation of the Al-Qaeda organisation in Britain", according to reports.

The site, put up Jan 2, urges young Muslim men to rise up against infidels such as "(Prime Minister Gordon) Brown and (Tony) Blair", the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reported on Tuesday night.

Although the threat was described as "aspirational", Pauline Neville-Jones, former head of the British joint intelligence committee, said: "You don't ignore this sort of thing".

"It may not be a threat from an existing cell ... but it does represent a move in the propaganda game and the propaganda game is not something we should ignore. This is after all a struggle over ideology," she told the BBC.

The site reportedly hosts a catalogue of Islamist messages, musings and writings, and has been visited by more than 17 million people.

The threat was reported just days before Brown leaves on a long-haul trip to China and India - his first to the two Asian giants as Britain's prime minister.

Talks about global security cooperation and the fight against terrorism figure prominently in his agenda in both countries.

Counter-terrorism forms an important part of a key strategic partnership agreement signed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Brown's predecessor Tony Blair three years ago, committing both nations to "combating terrorism in all its forms and manifestations".

The two nations have been working closely on a number of fronts in counter terrorism, including money laundering and terrorist financing, through cooperation between their police, law enforcement agencies and criminal justice systems.

Such cooperation is crucial because Britain in recent years has faced mounting attacks from homegrown terrorists who are often trained in Pakistan.

Michael Chertoff, the head of homeland security in the US, said on Wednesday that the threat from homegrown terrorists in Europe was so serious that Washington may now ask Britons and others to register online before travelling to the US.

"One of the things we've become concerned about lately is the possibility of Europe becoming a platform for a threat against the United States," he said.

"...We have watched the rise of home-grown terrorism. We are obviously mindful of the Madrid bombings, the attempted bombings in Germany, and that suggests to us that the terrorists are increasingly looking to Europe as both a target and a platform for terrorist attacks.

"...When I lift my eyes and I look around the world and I look at what happens in Britain, in Germany, in Spain, in Bali, in Pakistan, I don't see terrorism going away; I see an Al-Qaeda that's evolving," he added.

Suicide bombers killed 52 people and injured hundreds in attacks on London's trains and buses in July 2005. Last year, suspected car bombers were involved in failed attacks on Glasgow airport and two London nightclubs.