Muslim extremists are planning at least 30 major terrorist attacks in Britain, according to MI5. The head of Britain's internal the security service, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, says some of the plots might involve chemical or nuclear materials.
Some of the potential attacks may involve young British Muslims who are being groomed to become suicide bombers, Manningham-Buller said.
MI5 agents are watching 1,500 suspects, most of them British-born and with links to Pakistan.
Future attacks could involve not only improvised weapons like the London transport bombings last year, Manningham-Buller warned, but might include the use of chemical, bacteriological, and even nuclear materials.
Prime Minister Tony Blair this morning said he agreed with his security chief's assessment.
The head of MI5 rarely speaks in public, but Thursday night, before an invited audience, Manningham-Buller stressed the huge task facing her organization. No cameras or microphones were allowed at the talk, but her comments were posted on the agency's Web site.
The comments have once again provoked debate within the Muslim community, whose relations with Tony Blair's government have been difficult in the 16 months since the suicide attacks in London. Many in the Islamic community, like Massoud Shadjareh, from the Islamic Human Rights Commission, feel that Muslims are being unfairly targeted.
"We know, the facts are," Shadareh said, "that there are over 1,000 arrests has been made (sic) under anti-terrorism since 9-11, and out of those, 27 have been found guilty. Out of those 27, only 9 have been Muslims."
In her speech, Manningham-Buller said at least five major plots have been thwarted since since last summer.