LONDON (Reuters) - The foiled car-bomb plot in London shows al Qaeda has imported the tactics of Iraqi and Indonesian militants to Britain, the prime minister’s top terrorism adviser said on Saturday.
“Make no mistake, this weekend’s bomb attacks signal a major escalation in the war being waged on us by Islamic terrorists,” John Stevens, the former commissioner of the London police, wrote in an article to be published in the News of the World newspaper on Sunday.
“Initially it was believed the main problem police faced was insulated groups of home-grown extremists. But now it is clear a loose but deadly network of interlinked operational cells has developed.
“The terror of July 7 (2005) was awful enough, but now al-Qaeda has imported the tactics of Baghdad and Bali to our streets. And it will get worse before it gets better.”
Stevens’ assessment follows the thwarting of a twin car-bomb plot in London on Friday, when police found two vehicles loaded with fuel, gas canisters and nails parked near a night club in the busy heart of the capital.
The bombs were defused but police said that if had they detonated they could have killed scores of people.
Then on Saturday, a four-by-four vehicle rammed into the terminal at Glasgow airport and exploded, prompting Britain’s Home Office to raise the national security alert level to “critical”, indicating further attacks are expected imminently.
Witnesses described those in the vehicle as “Asian men” and one said he was sure they were intent on carrying out a “terrorist act”. The two men were arrested.
London’s top counter-terrorism officer said the planned attack bore similarities to another plot, uncovered in 2004, in which an al Qaeda militant planned to detonated gas-fuelled bombs hidden in limousines across London.
The rash of incidents comes nearly exactly two years after the July 7th attacks, when four suicide bombers carried out coordinated blasts on London’s transport system, killing 52.
Stevens said there was the possibility that al Qaeda “Mr. Bigs” were operating in Britain and said the seeds of Muslim terrorism had begun to sprout.
“The involvement, influence and even leadership of al Qaeda veterans both from abroad but also now on the ground in Britain has grown significantly,” he wrote.
“It is a sign of the new maturity and sophistication of al Qaeda in Britain that they have moved to this car bomb style campaign.”
Stevens said anti-terrorist police and the domestic security agency MI5 would have to work hard to follow the links in the chain before more militants struck again.
“And make no mistake — strike again they will,” he wrote.