lists 350 terror targets in Britain
Times Online, 6 juin 2002
By Michael Evans, Defence Editor
Al-Qaeda suicide missions prompt urgent security review.
A SECRET list of hundreds of potential terrorist
targets including key government buildings and installations vital for
Britains economy has been drawn up by MI5, The Times can
The key buildings and installations, including oil refineries, nuclear
power stations and vital communications centres, have had their security
profiles urgently reassessed because of the threat posed by al-Qaeda.
The threat of suicide bombers, which Britain has never encountered
during the years of IRA terrorism, has made many of these potential
targets almost impossible to insure.
More than 350 sites have been placed on the critical national
infrastructure list, and MI5, which is responsible for giving
protective security advice for all the buildings and installations,
has been involved in re-examining the potential threat they might face,
following the attacks in New York and Washington on September 11.
Yesterday on a visit to London, Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defence Secretary,
gave warning: We live in a dangerous and untidy world. This is
not an easy time for the world.
He also urged all the countries in Nato to sharpen their responses
in order to be able to tackle not just the military but also the political
aspects of the ongoing campaign against terror.
Al-Qaeda cells, he said, were known to be in 50 or 60 countries, including
As part of Britains effort to counter the potential threat from
the al-Qaeda terrorist network, experts from MI5s protective security
branch, which has built up years of experience from dealing with the
threat from Irish terrorism, have been visiting key sites such as communications
and transport centres, which are vital to the smooth running of the
Their task has been to ensure that security measures have been stepped
up to take into account the perceived greater risks of terrorist action
by fanatical Muslim extremist groups prepared to use suicide bombers.
Britain has not had to face the suicide bomber, but this is now seen
as the most likely method of attack if al-Qaeda seeks to attack British
sites in retaliation for the Governments support for America in
the War on Terror in Afghanistan.
Since September 11, the heightened risk of terrorist attack has increased
the potential insurance burden for major companies on the critical national
infrastructure list, underlining the urgency to seek advice from the
Governments security experts at MI5 to ensure that all possible
counter-terrorist steps are taken.
The buildings on the official list covered by MI5s area of responsibility
are understood to include the countrys 15 nuclear power stations,
the main National Grid sites, oil installations, petrochemical facilities,
key defence companies and research centres such as the chemical defence
agency at Porton Down in Wiltshire and the atomic weapons establishment
at Aldermaston in West Berkshire.
Although military barracks and bases have armed protection, they are
also seen as potentially vulnerable to terrorist attack. Such sites
would include the nuclear submarine bases at Faslane on the Clyde.
The major new concern about suicide attacks has not previously been
a focus for the security authorities because the IRA and other Irish
republican terrorist organisations have always planned their bomb plots
with an inbuilt escape route.
By contrast, terrorist networks such as al-Qaeda, led by Osama bin
Laden, resort to suicide as one of the principal methods of guaranteeing
a successful attack.
The most devastating cases were the hijacked airliner attacks on the
World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, which killed more than 3,000 people,
and the terrorist strike in October 2000 on USS Cole, the American warship
moored in Aden, causing the death of 17 sailors.
Following intelligence of a possible al-Qaeda attack on nuclear power
plants in the United States, the British Government has taken extra
security measures at the countrys 15 nuclear power stations. They
include the plants at Sizewell in Suffolk, Hinkley Point in Somerset,
Dungeness in Kent, Trawsfynydd in Gwynedd, and Heysham in Lancashire.
Another key nuclear site requiring maximum counter-terrorist systems
is the British Nuclear Fuels reprocessing plant at Sellafield in Cumbria.
The security assessment has taken into account attacks from the air
as well as threats from suicide bombers driving trucks or other vehicles.
In London, there are also numerous buildings whose security would need
to have been reassessed since September 11, including government ministries,
the Stock Exchange and the Bank of England.
All businesses with headquarters housed in skyscrapers, such as the
Canary Wharf premises in Docklands, have had to revise their security
arrangements because of the potential threat posed by terrorists hijacking
airliners. Although they carried out immediate evacuation rehearsals
after September 11, companies concerned about their vulnerability have
been able to call on MI5 for advice.
Apart from the obvious measures such as security guards, closed-circuit
television cameras and reinforced windows, the security experts have
taken into account the location of a building, and its position in relation
to motorways, airports and approach routes.
Although every effort is being taken to improve
security at the 350-plus sites on the critical national infrastructure
list, there is no intelligence of any specific terrorist threat
against any of them.