In an extremely rare and frank public speech, the head of Britain's MI5 intelligence section said her agency is aware of nearly 30 active terrorist plots linked to al Qaeda, meant to cause "mass casualties" in Great Britain, Europe and Canada, and warned that "young teenagers were being groomed to become suicide bombers."
"What do I mean by numerous? Five? 10? No nearer 30...that we know of. These plots often have links back to al Qaeda in Pakistan, and through those links al Qaeda gives guidance and training to its largely British foot soldiers," said MI5 Director General Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller in a speech at the University of London.
In what she termed a "sober" and "frank" account of the al Qaeda threat in the U.K. in 2006, Manningham-Buller said that while "today we see the use of homemade improvised explosive devices, tomorrow's threat may include the use of chemicals, bacteriological agents or radioactive materials, even nuclear technology."
THE BLOTTER RECOMMENDS
The director described a massive investigative effort, saying British intelligence agents were tracking more than 200 terror networks, involving more than 1,600 individual suspects "actively engaged in plotting or facilitating terrorist acts here and overseas."
"Because of the sheer scale of what we face (80 percent increase in casework since January), the task is daunting. We won't always make the right choices. And we recognize we shall have scarce sympathy if we are unable to prevent one of our targets committing an atrocity."
The MI5 chief concluded, "[The] threat is serious, is growing and will, I believe, be with us for a generation."