Britain's '9/11' foiled by security forces
• Security forces thwart al-Qaeda plan to attack Canary Wharf and Heathrow
• Security chiefs claim they have foiled four or five terrorist attacks
• Upcoming Queen’s speech expected to be dominated by security
"The significance of this would depend on whether these suicide training exercises were disrupted within the United Kingdom, and what they actually consisted of in terms of preparation, such as the indoctrination of key individuals" - Dr Magnus Ranstorp, director of the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at St Andrews University
Story in full AN AL-QAEDA terror plot involving aircraft being flown simultaneously into the towers of Canary Wharf and Heathrow Airport has been foiled by British security forces, it emerged last night.
The 9/11-style attacks on the two high-profile London targets are among four or five al-Qaeda strikes that security chiefs believe they have stopped, it was reported.
According to a senior authoritative source last night, training programmes for suicide pilots have been disrupted and the devastating attacks foiled. The Home Office and Metropolitan Police declined to comment on the reports.
Security has been heightened around strategic centres across the capital in the wake of the 2001 attacks, which have plunged the world into a series of conflicts aimed at defeating terrorism.
Last night, Dr Magnus Ranstorp, the director of the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at St Andrews University, said Canary Wharf would be an obvious target as it was the financial centre of London’s Docklands district, and Heathrow was the capital’s main airport. He said: "If this is the case, then of course there may have been different degrees of development and preparation for such attacks - it may not have been fully operational plans that were either days or hours away.
"There has already been a security clampdown around Heathrow, and that decision in itself was not taken lightly given the political and economic consequences of such an action.
"If this is the case it would justify what the security services and principal counter-terrorism officials have been saying for some time, that there is a danger and they have been working over-time to try and prevent this threat.
"Canary Wharf, and the City itself, is an obvious target as it is in the financial district of London and therefore remains a major economic target for terrorists.
"It is a great credit to the law enforcement and security services who are carrying out one of the more advanced counter-terrorism operations in Europe."
Regarding the alleged disruption of suicide pilot training courses, Dr Ranstorp said: "The significance of this would depend on whether these suicide training exercises were disrupted within the United Kingdom, and what they actually consisted of in terms of preparation, such as the indoctrination of key individuals.
"There are different degrees of preparation - from initial planning to training to deployment - so the significance of this would depend on at what stage the operations were disrupted."
More than 2,700 people died in the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon more than three years ago.
News of the plots against British targets came ahead of a Queen’s Speech, which is expected to be dominated by the issue of security. Numerous bills tackling terrorism, organised crime and anti-social behaviour have been trailed.
Home Secretary David Blunkett’s more controversial proposals, such as the use in court of evidence acquired by wire taps, will be shelved until after the General Election expected in May.
However, the government’s programme will set the scene for a poll campaign Tony Blair is said to want to fight on security. Opponents have accused the Home Secretary of deliberately creating a climate of fear.
Mr Blunkett has recently insisted that Labour will campaign on hope not fear, but then warned that forthcoming trials will show al-Qaeda are "on our doorstep and threatening lives". His comments came after Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens spoke of his frustration at not being able to talk about anti-terror successes.
MI5 chief Eliza Manningham-Buller also spoke publicly about Britain’s success in thwarting fanatics. Mr Blair faced accusations of alarmism 18 months ago when troops in armoured vehicles surrounded Heathrow Airport.
However, the government insisted that the dramatic action came in response to specific intelligence.
It was not clear whether it was this event that thwarted one of up to five strikes reportedly prevented since the 2001 US attacks, and which ITV News was reporting last night.
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