Why Is Britain a Terrorist Target? The two-year anniversary of the "7/7" terrorist bombings in London's subway system comes on the heels of a foiled car-bombing plot that is still under investigation. Why has Britain become a target for extremists?
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Why Is Britain a Terrorist Target?

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Why Is Britain a Terrorist Target?

Why Is Britain a Terrorist Target?

Why Is Britain a Terrorist Target?

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The two-year anniversary of the "7/7" terrorist bombings in London's subway system comes on the heels of a foiled car-bombing plot that is still under investigation. Why has Britain become a target for extremists?

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:

Today marks the second anniversary of the suicide bombings that killed 52 people and wounded hundreds more in London. Survivors like Jackie Pudnam(ph) sought comfort from each other.

Ms. JACKIE PUDNAM: We're going to spend this day together and see each other through it. It's very sad. It's very poignant amidst some other big milestone.

ELLIOTT: Prime Minister Gordon Brown took part in a wreath-laying ceremony at the King's Cross subway station where the first bomb hit. Earlier this week, he warned Britons to expect tighter security measures in the wake of the recent failed terrorist plots in London and Glasgow. Over the past few years, there have been a string attacks or near misses in Britain, prompting the question, why?

From London, NPR's Jackie Northam reports on some of the answers.

JACKIE NORTHAM: For decades, attacks on Briton tended to be the work of the IRA. But in early 2003, police arrested six Algerians who were manufacturing resin to use for a poison attack on London subway. Since then, there has been a devastating attack on the transit system and several other foiled plots to blow up airplanes, cars, London subways and buses.

The common thread running through every plot is they were all planned and implemented by Islamic extremists. Anthony Glees of Brunel University in London says there's a lot of anger towards Britain because of its support to the United States and the war in Iraq.

Professor ANTHONY GLEES (Director, Brunel Center for Intelligence and Security Studies): I certainly think that this could be what we would call blowback from Iraq. It certainly looks like that. But in a sense, everything is blowback from the Islamists, mad jihadists' wish to destroy the West and its institutions.

NORTHAM: The four Muslim suicide bombers who launched their attack in London two years ago today were born in Britain. Many others who have been involved in the plot have come from the Middle East, North Africa and elsewhere. There was a huge Muslim diaspora in Europe and other nations such as France, Germany, Italy and Spain are all tangling with extremism.

Britain is seen as the most tolerant European nation towards radical groups, according to M.J. Gohel of the Asia Pacific Foundation.

Mr. M.J. GOHEL (Director, Asia Pacific Foundation): For a long time, Britain has been a home, a base for virtually every single radical extremist Islamic group. These individuals came into the country over the last 20 years or more. The (unintelligible) come in here, in fact, many of them had been preaching hatred, many of them had been recruiting personnel and funds.

NORTHAM: Gohel says British officials were inclined to protect freedom of speech and felt that cracking down on extremists would drive them underground.

Mr. GOHEL: There was a policy known as watchful tolerance, which was to allow them to be out there in the open but not really take any action because it wasn't thought that they would launch any attack on the U.K.

NORTHAM: Since the terror attacks two years ago, British authorities have tried to break into the various tightly knit Muslim communities throughout the United Kingdom.

According to Garry Hindle, a security expert at the Royal United Services Institute, the Islamic communities are also struggling with how to handle extremism.

Mr. GARRY HINDLE (Security Expert, Royal United Services Institute): We're talking about the problem in the U.K. that has existed for decades and not just the last 10 years or less. We're talking about a movement, battles that have gone on within Muslim communities and sometimes pitched battles in the streets between more politicized supporter of Islam and the moderates.

NORTHAM: And just to date, the mainstream umbrella group, the Muslim Council of Britain, held a special session to discuss ways to deal with the threat of terrorism.

Jackie Northam, NPR News, London.

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