The European Police Office (Europol) in its latest report has described “the United Kingdom (UK) as a fertile ground for recruitment of radical Islamists and focal point of Islamic terrorism across Europe” and has blamed it on Britain’s controversial military campaigns overseas.
Underlining that the dangers posed by militant groups rose to unprecedented proportions in 2007, the report says there has been a steep increase in the number of arrests, plots and attacks.
“Europe is a continent under siege with conspiracies cropping up in a wide range of member states,” the report pointed out.
The Europol, which co-ordinates law enforcement information across the European Union (EU), has warned that Al Qaida was stepping up its campaign against Britain and its European allies, after “rebuilding its capabilities”.
Authorities believe at least 3,000 sleeping jihadis “can be activated by the terror group” in the UK. At least one person is arrested every day across Europe under suspicion of involvement in Islamic terror conspiracies or attacks. According to the EU Terrorism Situation and Trend report, there were 203 terror-related arrests in the UK last year.
Europol said the British figure was 30 per cent up on 2006, with the “vast majority” relating to Islamism; 201 Islamist-related terror arrests were made across the 26 other EU member states.
Experts of Europol have identified the lawless tribal areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan as “troublesome”. They believe these places hosted training camps for some of the most committed jihadis.
The report also warned of other areas emerging as threats like Somalia, where “dozens” of British passport holders were fighting alongside the Islamists.
Official sources say the number of terror suspects being monitored has risen from 500 to 2,000 since the start of the Iraq war. They warned that further attacks on the UK were “highly likely”.
Paul Beaver, an expert on counter-terrorism, advocates “draconian surveillance to step up monitoring of such elements, which is not possible in a democracy”.
“The problem is we have to be lucky all the time, whereas as terrorists have to be lucky only once to cause carnage,” Beaver said.
A Home Office spokesman confirmed most of the Europol findings tallied with official figures and underlined the government’s consistent warnings about the scale of the threat. But he insisted the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan had no bearing on the level of the threat in the UK.