Britain at risk from al-Qa'ida 'dirty' nuclear bomb

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Britain is facing an increased threat of nuclear attacks by al-Qa'ida terrorists, according to three counter-terrorism reviews published yesterday.

Downing Street issued an update to the National Security Strategy, which stated that "the UK does face nuclear threats now", adding that there was "the possibility that nuclear weapons or nuclear material [could] fall into the hands of rogue states or terrorist groups."

According to the Daily Telegraph, Lord West, the Security Minister, has already made likely the possibility of London undergoing a similar attack to that of Mumbai in 2008, when terrorists used small vessels to enter ports and take the city under siege. It comes amid fears that terrorists could transport an improvised nuclear device on the Thames and detonate it in the heart of London. Other areas thought to be vulnerable included Bristol, Liverpool, Newcastle, Glasgow and Belfast.

Another report, on the Government's "Contest" counter-terrorism strategy, said there was a danger that the enhanced expertise of insurgent groups in Afghanistan had increased the threat from a radiological "dirty bomb".

The report also suggested that bomb makers that have been active in Afghanistan could already have the ability to produce a "dirty bomb" using information available over the internet.

A third counter-terrorism report said security around stockpiles of decommissioned material was "variable and sometimes inadequate leaving materials vulnerable and to theft".