Brown warns of 'evolving' terrorist threat to UK

PM promises full-body scanners at airports after Christmas Day bomb plot
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Indy Politics

Gordon Brown today issues a stark New Year warning that the terrorist threat to Britain is "evolving".

He says the failed attempt to blow up a plane over Detroit was a "wake-up call" and pledges new measures to track and detect the "enemies of democracy and freedom" plotting new methods of attack.

In a message on the Downing Street website, he says: "The new decade is starting as the last began, with al-Qa'ida creating a climate of fear."

He promises tighter security to prevent a repeat of the Christmas Day bomb plot, signalling that full body scanners will be installed in major airports within months. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab failed to ignite explosives stitched into his underpants during the final minutes of a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.

The Prime Minister says the bungled bomb attack is a reminder of the "very real threat" posed by international terrorism. As well as introducing the scanners, which take images of the naked body, the hands of travellers could be examined for signs of explosives, and luggage checked by more sophisticated x-ray machines. Mr Brown says that terrorists are using new methods of hiding bomb-making materials from security staff.

He writes: "We now know that the would-be bomber used a small quantity of explosive that went undetected by standard airport security equipment. We need, therefore, to continually explore the most sophisticated devices capable of identifying explosives, guns, knives and other such items anywhere on the body.

"So, in cooperation with President Obama and the Americans, we will examine a range of new techniques to enhance airport security systems beyond the traditional measures, such as pat-down searches and sniffer dogs. These could include advancing our use of explosive trace technology, full body scanners and advanced x-ray technology. Working alongside the US and other partners, we will move things forward quickly."

Scanners are being trialled at Manchester Airport and have been tested at Heathrow, but are not yet fully operational. Yesterday Dutch ministers promised to install them for flights to the US within three weeks.

Mr Brown also promises to improve information-sharing between Britain and America about transatlantic passengers, indicating that the number of suspected terrorist sympathisers banned from flying will be increased.

"In light of the Detroit incident we all urgently need to work together on how we might further tighten these arrangements – in particular, at what point suspects are added to the list and when they are deemed too risky to be allowed to fly, or leave or enter the country."

Mr Brown says Yemen, where Abdulmutallab is thought to have made contact with senior al-Qa'ida figures, has become "an incubator and potential safe haven for terrorism" and therefore presents a global threat. The Prime Minister promises extra help to the country through aid exceeding £100m next year and by the creation of a "Friends of Yemen" group in the region to "pool effort, resource and expertise".