Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Blair Plea for Calm amid the 'Nightmare Scenario'

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Blair Plea for Calm amid the 'Nightmare Scenario'

Article excerpt


TONY BLAIR was set to appeal for national calm today as the Government came to terms with the fact that the suicide bombers were British Muslims.

In his first reaction to the police breakthrough, the Prime Minister was expected to underline a twin-track approach of tighter security and a long term battle for the "hearts and minds" of young Asians.

Ministers expected Mr Blair to use his weekly Commons question time to stress that while the Islamic community should be protected from reprisals it had a duty to "rise up" against the extremists. "Part of the answer can only come from within the community," a Whitehall source said.

Mr Blair had been warned by anti-terror chiefs to prepare for the " nightmare scenario" of home-grown suicide bombers and reacted "coolly and calmly" when told of the news last night, sources said.

He has been told that up to 200 more British-born Muslims have been trained to carry out attacks, but of those maybe 50 or so are actually prepared to act.

A joint Home Office-Foreign Office dossier prepared for Mr Blair last year warned that "disillusioned" middleclass university graduates were being targeted by extremists.

The dossier, Young Muslims and Extremism, formed the basis of the Government's counter-terrorism strategy, codenamed Operation Contest.

A senior MI5 officer is understood to have addressed a Sheffield meeting of the G8 home and interior ministers last month on the issue of home-grown terrorism.

Mr Blair is determined to stop rightwing groups such as the British National Party from exploiting racial divisions and believes that new laws to stop the excesses of radical clerics may be needed.

Just as the Government has implemented tough rules on immigration and asylum to outflank the far-right, fresh measures to tackle hate-preachers may be needed, sources said. …

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