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Telegraph: “2,000 Terrorist Plotters” in UK, 200 “Actively Planning Suicide Attacks”

From Sean Rayment at the Telegraph:

At least 200 potential terrorists are actively planning suicide attacks while living freely in Britain, intelligence chiefs have warned ministers.

A senior intelligence source has revealed that the figure is a “conservative” estimate of the threat facing the country from UK-based Islamist suicide bombers.

The would-be killers are among 2,000 extremists who the security services have said are based in Britain and actively planning terrorist activity of some kind.

The figures are contained within a secret government report on the “enduring terrorist threat” facing the UK from al-Qaeda and affiliated organisations, The Sunday Telegraph has been told.

…The 200 British residents thought to be planning suicide attacks, either within the UK or overseas, represent one in 10 of the wider group of 2,000 terrorist plotters.

These figures have been widely repeated in other newspapers.

Unfortunately, the Telegraph tells us nothing about the “secret government” report’s methodology. Where has the figure of “2,000 terrorist plotters” come from? Is that another “estimate”, or are 2,000 persons currently under surveillance? If the latter, why haven’t there been more arrests? If the former, on what is the estimate based? And what’s the basis for extrapolating from this figure to “one in 10” extremists supposedly “planning suicide attacks”?

Of course, it would be foolish to dismiss the report out of hand. We’ve had one terrorist outrage in the UK already, and other plots have been disrupted: the “hook” for the above is six arrests in Birmingham. It’s also obvious that a journalist handling classified information has to take some care not to compromise security operations. But what we’ve been given is so vague as to be near useless: just enough information has been leaked to make us all feel alarmed, while denying us any context which would allow any kind of independent assessment (much less think sensibly about counter-measures).

One also wonders how much of Rayment’s report has come from the horse’s mouth and how much has perhaps come second-hand via a minister. Coming in the wake of so many duff media reports about terrorism (for example, “breast implant bombs“, “HIV bombs“, and “Terror Target Sugar“), this simply will not do.

UPDATE: Yorkshire Ranter points out that the “2,000” figure has in fact been in the public domain for at least four years. From the BBC on 5 November 2007:

There are at least 2,000 people in the UK who pose a threat to national security because of their support for terrorism, the head of MI5 has said.

Jonathan Evans said there had been a rise of 400 since November 2006.

So, either there’s the same number of terror-supporters now as there was then, which ought to be of interest in itself, or the Telegraph‘s figure is based on data that’s four years old and derives from a public speech rather than a secret report.

4 Responses

  1. Its a global issue so wake up. Stop trusting the liberal media they tell you that everything is alright when it is not. Just ask the Christians in Egypt.

    • What has “trusting the liberal media” got to do with anything? And who says “everything is alright”?

      This is bluster. If the questions I raise are unreasonable, you’re welcome to explain why.

  2. It’s always been 2,000 – it was 2,000 in 2007 and I’m pretty sure it was 2,000 a couple of years before that.

  3. Also, presumably you mean “ask the Egyptian Christians about being brutally repressed by an authoritarian military junta?”

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