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Friday, September 01, 2006

UK police say suspect thousands of terrorism links

LONDON, Sept 1 (Reuters) - British police are watching thousands of British Muslims who they suspect may be involved in or support terrorism, the head of London police's anti-terrorist branch said on Friday.

The figure given by Peter Clarke in a BBC interview was higher than previous official estimates and came as police investigate an alleged plot by a group of British Muslims to blow up U.S.-bound airliners using liquid explosives.

In July last year four British Islamist suicide bombers killed themselves and 52 other people at rush hour on public transport in London.

Asked how many British Muslims police were looking at because they suspected them of direct or indirect involvement in terrorism, Clarke said: "Our knowledge is increasing, and certainly in terms of broad description of the numbers of people who we have to be interested in, we are into the thousands."

Clarke said he was referring to "not just terrorists, not just attackers, but the people who might be tempted to support or encourage", according to the BBC's Web site.

"What we've learned and what we've seen all too graphically and all too murderously is that we have a threat which is being generated here within the United Kingdom," Clarke added.

Clarke was interviewed by BBC reporter Peter Taylor, who concluded after a year-long investigation into radical Islam that the conflict in Iraq was the main reason young Muslims were being radicalised.

The government has rejected allegations that its backing for the Iraq war had raised the risk of terrorist attack.

Taylor also found there was a so-called pipeline from Britain that channelled recruits to Iraq via Syria.

Clarke said: "What we do see is individuals with connections who are happy to try to organise the travel of others."

Clarke said British police knew who some of these people were but declined to say if they were under surveillance.

Eleven British Muslims have been charged with conspiracy to murder and planning acts of terrorism over the suspected plot to blow up airliners over the Atlantic.

Four people are accused of lesser offences and five others are still being questioned but have not been charged.
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