Al-Qaeda attack is a matter of time, says MI5




By Mark Huband, Security Correspondent

Financial Times, 18 June 2003

It is only a matter of time before a terrorist attack using chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear technology is launched by al-Qaeda or its affiliates against a big western city, the head of MI5, the security service, said yesterday.

“My conclusion, based on the intelligence we have uncovered, is that we are faced with the realistic possibility of some form of unconventional attack,” Eliza Manningham-Buller, the MI5 director-general, said.

However, she made it clear a conventional terrorist attack remained more likely, telling a London conference at the Royal United Services Institute: “The bomb and the suicide bomber remain the most effective tool in the terrorist arsenal.”

In her most detailed assessment to date of al-Qaeda’s capabilities, Ms Manningham-Buller said the threat was “likely to remain for the foreseeable future”. Her comments are similar to predictions made by ministers since the September 11 attacks, and are part of the government’s strategy of maintaining a state of alert without causing alarm. Senior officials have regularly said they assume al-Qaeda will succeed in launching an attack.

MI5 and MI6, the foreign intelligence service, GCHQ, the monitoring service, and other government departments have streamlined the process of assessing the terrorist threat, partly in response to the attacks in Bali last October.


© Copyright The Financial Times Ltd 2008