LONDON—That Britain faces a very real risk of home-grown Islamic terrorism has long been known. But now, Prime Minister Gordon Brown has not only publicly hinted at the extent of the problem but bluntly charged that most U.K.-based extremists are linked to Pakistan, some 3,700 miles away.
According to Brown, fully three quarters of the serious radical Islamist plots under investigation in the United Kingdom have connections to the South Asian Muslim country. Published reports say they total more than 20, and the government reckons that at least 4,000 British Muslims have received training at terrorist camps in Pakistan or Afghanistan—among them, most infamously, Mohammed Sidique Khan, one of the July 7, 2005, suicide bombers who killed 52 people in London.
Islamabad's inability to keep a lid on its extremist elements was highlighted last month when a gang of Pakistani terrorists attacked a number of sites in Mumbai, killing more than 170 people.
Brown described a "chain of terror that links the mountains of Pakistan and Afghanistan to the streets of Britain and other countries of the world." As if to underscore Brown's point, Rangzieb Ahmed of Manchester was convicted last week of running a three-person, al Qaeda terrorist cell and arranging to send British citizens to training camps in Pakistan. Another man, Habib Ahmed, was convicted of being a member of al Qaeda.
This situation poses a delicate situation here. More than a million people of Pakistani heritage call Britain home—only Saudi Arabia has a larger Pakistani expatriate community—and clearly the vast majority are law-abiding citizens who eschew terrorism.
"However, there is a significant number who are radicalized," says Farzana Shaikh, an expert on Pakistani affairs.
One question is where they are indoctrinated by violent Islamism. Is it here in the United Kingdom or on trips to Pakistan?
"There's a lot of evidence that a lot of it takes place in the U.K.," says Gareth Price, head of the Asia Program at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London. For instance, Britain's prison system has been called a breeding ground for budding Islamic extremists.
Then again, young British Pakistanis who fall into trouble with alcohol or drugs are sometimes sent by their parents to stay with relatives in Pakistan to straighten them out. "And they are vulnerable to brainwashing there," Price adds.
Read it all here.