Terrorists 'already have biological weapons'

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MI6 has warned the Government that terrorist groups behind the US suicide attacks already have access to chemical and biological weapons.

The Independent on Sunday has learnt that security and intelligence reports led to the warnings in the Commons on Friday by Tony Blair and Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, that next time the terrorists may use chemical, biological or even nuclear weapons.

Some Labour MPs and ministers have privately said the World Trade Centre attack showed the US "Star Wars" national missile defence project is incapable of stopping terrorists. Mr Straw, however, has told colleagues, again privately, that the week's events make it more vital than ever to develop a defensive system against a nuclear attack from a rogue terrorist state.

Attacking Osama bin Laden's camps in Afghanistan may be only the first step. The Prime Minister has hinted clearly at action against other countries, such as Iraq, that have acquired weapons of mass destruction and may supply terrorist groups. He said that states who traded the technology needed to be exposed, and the trade "stamped out".

Ministers are also planning European-wide agreements on extradition, to make it easier for alleged terrorists to be returned to other European countries to face trial. The French have been pressing Britain for years to close down London-based Algerian groups linked to Mr bin Laden.

In a separate move, the IoS has learnt that the Government is now committed to introducing identity cards to be used as proof of British citizenship. Hints were given by the Home Secretary about the move, which is being taken to stem the tide of asylum-seekers from Calais.

Downing Street was keen to avoid accusations that the Government was being "illiberal", but was persuaded by the growing evidence that Britain was being targeted because of its lack of a national identity card, which enables illegal immigrants to escape detection.

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