Blair backs MI5 terror warning
London Guardian | November 10, 2006
Tony Blair today backed the assessment of the head of MI5 that the "very real" threat from terrorism would last a generation.
In a rare public speech yesterday, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, director general of the intelligence agency, expressed concern at the rate at which young people, including teenagers, were being radicalised and indoctrinated.
She said MI5 was tracking more than 1,600 individuals who were actively engaged in promoting attacks here and abroad. Many of these were British-born and had connections with al-Qaida, she said.
Responding to her comments that the threat would "be with us for a generation", the prime minister said today Britain faced a "long and deep struggle" to combat the danger posed by terrorism.
Echoing yesterday's speech by the foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett, he said it was important to "stand up and be counted", and to tackle the "poisonous propaganda" that warped young people's minds.
He said: "I have been saying for several years this terror threat is very real. It has been building up over a long period of time."
Mr Blair, who was speaking during a Downing Street press conference after a meeting with the New Zealand prime minister, Helen Clark, added: "I think [Dame Eliza is] absolutely right that it will last a generation.
"We need to combat the poisonous propaganda of those people that warps and perverts the minds of younger people.
"It's a very long and deep struggle, but we have to stand up and be counted for what we believe in and take the fight to those people who want to entice young people into something wicked and violent but utterly futile."
Inayat Bunglawala, a spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, said Dame Eliza had given "a very sobering warning".
But he said it was essential that British Muslims were seen as "a partner in the fight against terrorism and not some sort of community in need of mass medication".
"Holding a community responsible for the actions of a few would be counterproductive," he added.
He said that after the bombings and this week's conviction of Dhiren Barot for plotting terrorist attacks, "It must be prudent to assume there are cells out there plotting similar outrages."
But he repeated calls for a public inquiry into the July 7 attacks, saying this would be an "essential tool" in understanding how four young people had been radicalised into committing mass murder.
Ihtisham Hibatullah, of the British Muslim Initiative, said he was concerned that Muslim communities as a whole would be stigmatised by the claim that 200 groups were involved in plotting.
And Bill Durodie, a senior lecturer in risk and security at the Defence Academy, warned that high-profile speeches risked exaggerating the scale of the threat facing Britain.
"It's easy to pull out alarmist headlines," he said. "What we're seeing here on the whole are lone individuals [and] small groups."
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