An associate of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) was arrested earlier this year for allegedly planning a terrorist attack in Britain, UK Home Secretary Theresa May said on Wednesday in a speech to the Royal United Services Institute in London.
May spoke of the changing nature of the al-Qaida threat to Britain, explaining that al-Qaida is now weaker than any time since September 11, and "many other terrorist groups now aspire to attack us."
AQAP has been "at the forefront" of those other groups, she said. "Police and agencies have been working to disrupt AQAP operatives in this country," and "threats such as these are likely to continue," May noted.
One obstacle is that "AQAP continue[s] to broadcast propaganda to this country and to publish online material which encourages acts of terrorism," according to May.
The Home Secretary spoke of the American-born AQAP leader Anwar Al-Awlaki, currently living in Yemen. His online sermons inspired the 21 year old former British student Roshonara Choudry, who was sentenced to life imprisonment on Wednesday for the attempted murder of MP Stephen Timms. Choudry stabbed MP Timms for supporting the Iraq War in May.
Following pressure from British security officials, YouTube has begun removing clips of Awlaki from its site. The U.S. Treasury Department designated Al-Awlaki as a terrorist in July. Al-Awlaki has been tied to a series of attacks, including the Fort hood shooter Nidal Malik Hassan and the failed Detroit bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.
Another terrorist organization posing a threat to the UK is Somalia-based Al-Shabaab, which has recruited dozens of Westerns to provide support to the terrorist organization, including money, services and personnel. On Tuesday, six Somali refugees in the U.S. were arrested in separate, but possibly related schemes to funnel money to the group.
"We know that people from this country have already gone to Somalia to fight," May stated. And it "seems highly likely that if left to their own devices we would eventually see British extremists, trained and hardened on the streets of Mogadishu, returning to the UK and seeking to commit mass murder on the streets of London."
May promised "significant changes" to Britain's counter-terrorism laws, stating, "I don't think the previous government got the balance right, but let me make clear. I will do absolutely nothing that will put at risk Britain's national security."