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Monday, July 03, 2006

MI5 spying on 8,000 Al-Qaeda 'sympathisers'

LONDON (AFP) - Internal intelligence agency MI5 is spying on some 8,000 sympathisers of the Al-Qaeda terror network in a bid to identify future terrorists.

Operation "Rich Picture", also aims to recruit agents within the Islamist movement, The Independent newspaper reported Monday.

The nationwide investigation follows intelligence suggesting there is a very small, but significant number of British-born and Britain-based Muslims, who are prepared to carry out bombings and other terrorist attacks in this country.

"Undercover officers are gathering information from all over the country, including at colleges, mosques and internet websites where extremists may try to "groom" or radicalise those sympathetic to the aims of Al-Qaeda," the paper said.

Of the estimated 1.6 million Muslims living in Britain, counter-terrorist sources have disclosed that they believe up to 0.5 per cent - about 8,000 - support Al-Qaeda's aims, and have links to Islamist extremists.

The operation was begun shortly after the July 7 suicide bombings last year on the London public transport system which left 56 people dead, including the four bombers.
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