'Very real threat' of more terror attacks

Last updated at 09:35 07 July 2006

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair said today that the threat of further terrorist attacks in the UK had "palpably increased" and the possibility of another attack was "very real".

Sir Ian said the threat to the country, which he said was "very grim", came from both inside and outside.

See our special report on July 7 here

This could be seen by attacks that the police had thwarted in the last few months, he said.

Speaking on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme he said: "Since July the threat has palpably increased and I fear that we have to accept that we live in an age for some years when the threat of an attack getting through is very real.

He went on: "Some of the threats that we have now interdicted in the last few months are from outside and inside."

He added: "We are now in a position in which the threat is both internal and external."

Sir Ian said: "The threat is very grim, there is no doubt about it. There are, as we speak, people in the United Kingdom planning further atrocities.

"We have interdicted three further conspiracies since the 21st July and people await trial."

Sir Ian said in the long term the only answer to the threat had to be through working with communities.

He added: "I'm quite positive all the communities, including the Muslim communities, accept that the police service has a fundamental duty to preserve public security and that there will be more raids."

'No view on a public inquiry'

Sir Ian said he had "no view" on whether there should be a public inquiry into the July 7 bombings.

But he added: "If there is an inquiry, we will co-operate with it. While there isn't, we will make sure our resources are continuing.

"I must say that the investigation into the 7/7 bombings continues at an enormous pace. We have not given up."

Sir Ian went on: "Sixty people are currently facing or awaiting trial on terrorist charges - that's more people than any other country in the world, so there is an indication here that the threat is about."

Sir Ian said the raids in Forest Gate, east London, with police both armed and wearing chemical protection suits for the first time, showed the indication of the level of threat that was faced.

He said: "While there has been a great deal of media speculation, our findings on the ground... is that most people assess the fact that if the Metropolitan Police had credible intelligence that a chemical weapon of some sort was at a location, it would be an extraordinary decision not to do something about it."


On the shooting of Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes, 27, at Stockwell Tube station, he said: "I have apologised on a number of occasions.

"It's a dreadful, dreadful mistake and of course it was enormously damaging for the Metropolitan Police, and some time in the autumn, at the inquest, we will have to account for that."

Sir Ian condemned the video released yesterday, showing suicide bomber Shehzad Tanweer.

The 22-year-old, from Beeston, Leeds, killed himself and seven innocent people when he detonated a rucksack bomb on a Tube train close to Aldgate station.

In a chilling last testament, he warned that last year's bombings were "only the beginning" of a campaign of terror.

The video was released by al Qaeda in what experts said was a blatant attempt to overshadow today's anniversary.

Today, Sir Ian told BBC News his primary feeling was one of outrage at the video, but said it did not definitively prove al Qaeda was behind the attacks.

"I don't think the video proves that al Qaeda was responsible for the London bombings. They are a very opportunistic organisation and they may well have collected that video together to make it look as though they were.

"On the other hand, it may be very possible that they did have some hand in it.

"My main sense is a sense of real outrage: outrage for the victims that this offensive video has been produced on this day, but also outrage for the decent Muslim communities of Britain who just watch again as somebody claiming a perverted version of Islam (claims) to be doing these horrors in their name. That's just not true."

Speaking of the bombings - "the greatest single act of murder in English criminal history" - he said his memories of the day were of horror at what had happened, pride in his colleagues and the resilience of the capital.

"I remember being in my office, recognising that what we had feared, hoped would never happen but had planned for, was happening," he said.

"And my memories of that day are about going to the scenes, understanding the horror, being very, very proud of what my people were doing - some of them doing incredibly brave things - and then actually really recognising that London was surviving.

"I remember going through the very silent streets that evening - people beginning to walk - and that next morning, when London as a whole just got back on the Tubes and came to work. I think that is fantastic."

And he added that three further conspiracies had already been stopped since July 21, but warned that, while they were succeeding people, were planning atrocities, and the threat is "very real".

And he echoed the words of Brighton bomber Patrick Magee: "'We only have to be lucky once; you have to be lucky all the time'. It is a huge burden."

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