Security forces fear Baghdad-style tactics in London
Sandra Laville, crime correspondent
Friday June 29, 2007
The threat posed by the IRA at the end of the past century was very different from that of today. Inside Scotland Yard, detectives are faced with the knowledge that there are thousands of Islamist terror suspects at large, some of whom pose no immediate, direct threat; others who do.
The difficulty lies in choosing whom to watch when. Currently anti-terrorist officers are working on intelligence that suggests there are 250 high-risk terror suspects in the UK and 700 or so classed as medium risk. But individuals can swiftly move from peripheral figures to high-risk figures. Crucial to counter-terrorism are the choices senior officers must make when deciding which groups or individuals to target.
Today's discovery of a car bomb device in the heart of London's West End confirms what many experts within anti-terrorism have feared for some months. While the July 7 attacks involved rucksack bombs carried by individuals intent on suicide and targeted on the transport system, no one has been in any doubt that terrorists are constantly changing their tactics and targets.
On the streets of Baghdad the use of car bombs is a daily tactic which reaps horrific results. Senior officers have been waiting and dreading for those tactics to be employed in the UK by homegrown Islamist extremists.
Recently Scotland Yard admitted that they were carrying out anti-terrorist spot checks on lorries entering the capital.
There are growing concerns that iconic sights will be targeted. For example, last week concern was raised privately about security at Wimbledon, when it was noted that there are no vehicle crash barriers in the streets directly outside the tennis championships.
Evidence of the past three years has also indicated that the transport system is not the only target being considered. The plotters in the Crevice fertiliser bomb plot were heard talking about several targets, including nightclubs and the Bluewater shopping centre, back in 2004.
However, despite private concerns of car bombs being used at landmark sites, there has been to date no intelligence to suggest that the tactic was being discussed by extremists.
The discovery of the car bomb today in Haymarket comes, therefore, out of the blue.