'200 Osama-trained fanatics' in UK

Last updated at 08:43 07 March 2005

Up to 200 'Osama bin Laden-trained terrorists' are on the streets of Britain, determined to carry out mass attacks, one of the UK's most respected former police chiefs has warned.

Sir John Stevens, who retired as chief of London's Metropolitan Police earlier this year, said it would be "madness" to free foreigners held under an anti-terrorism law that judges ruled illegal last year.

Prime Minister Tony Blair is trying to pass new anti-terrorism measures that would allow house arrest, before the old measures expire on March 14.

The old measures, enacted in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, allow foreigners to be held indefinitely without charge, but the Law Lords ruled last year that the powers violate basic rights.

The new measures, which would allow British citizens and foreigners alike to be held under house arrest without charge, barely passed in parliament's elected House of Commons last week and could flounder in the House of Lords upper chamber.

"This new act must be passed as soon as possible," Stevens wrote in a newspaper. "The main opposition to this bill is from people who simply haven't understood the true horror of the terrorism we face."

"As you read this, there are at least 100 Osama bin Laden-trained terrorists walking Britain's streets. The number is probably nearer 200: the cunning of Al Qaeda means we cannot be exact.

"But they would all commit devastating terror attacks against us if they could, even those born and brought up here," he wrote.

No comments have so far been submitted. Why not be the first to send us your thoughts, or debate this issue live on our message boards.

We are no longer accepting comments on this article.

Who is this week's top commenter? Find out now