LONDON: At least 20 young British Muslims are undergoing training at terrorist training camps run by al-Qaeda in Pakistan as part of their plot to launch Mumbai-style attacks in Britain, a media report said today.
The youngsters, who hold British passports, are said to have travelled into the lawless tribal areas of Pakistan to join camps run by al-Qaeda and associated militant groups, The Daily Telegraph reported.
Quoting intelligence sources, the report said they are trained to use firearms as well as explosives so that they can carry out shooting sprees in Britain.
“We believe there are 15 to 20 Britons in the camps,” the report quoted an unnamed source in Islamabad.
The disclosure comes after the CIA launched drone strikes on training camps in North and South Waziristan in Pakistan in an attempt to disrupt an al-Qaeda plot to attack Britain, France and Germany.
Under the plot, Pakistan-trained terrorists were to be sent on to the streets, probably in capital cities, to shoot at random before heading into landmark buildings, as in the Mumbai outrage on November 26, 2008.
The attacks would have been co-ordinated for maximum impact and may have been aimed at financial institutions.
The terrorist cells had not yet travelled to Europe and the targets were unclear. According to the report, a missile from one US unmanned drone killed several Britons in training camp and the security services were trying to trace their links to Britain.
Mi5, Britain’s internal intelligence service, is thought to be displeased that an ongoing operation became public while they were still building up a picture of the terrorists’ support network.
“This is an ongoing operation with a constantly changing dynamic,” one security source told the newspaper. “There are local, national and international links, including Pakistan.” The report quoted a US official saying the threat was “credible, but not specific” and could have included other European countries such as Spain and Italy and possibly America.
Some of the intelligence is linked to the capture of a German national in Kabul in July. Ahmed Sidiqui, is said to have provided information about training with explosives and weapons and of plans to attack Germany and Europe.
Sidiqui attended the Masjid Taiba mosque, formerly known as the al-Quds mosque, in Hamburg, which was also attended by the leaders of the September 11 attacks.
The air strikes in North Waziristan are also thought to have killed Sheikh Fateh al-Masri, the operational commander of al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, who was thought to have been in command of the European plot.