One in eight UK Muslims 'support terrorist attacks'

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ONE in eight British Muslims back al-Qaeda-style terror strikes on the United States and almost half said they might consider becoming a suicide bomber if they lived as a Palestinian, according to a new poll.

An overwhelming 80 per cent said Britain and the US should not have launched the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

Attacks on the US by al-Qaeda or other groups were viewed as justified by 13 per cent of the 500 British Muslims questioned. Another 15 per cent said they did not know whether such attacks were wrong or right.

The Muslim Council of Britain said the poll, for the Guardian, showed most Muslims "abhor" terror attacks. A spokesman, Inayat Bunglawala, said: "It confirms our own finding that the overwhelming majority abhor terror attacks and see them as unIslamic."

Asked about the 13 per cent who feel further attacks on the US would be justified, Mr Bunglawala said: "Post 9/11 the US has lost a lot of sympathy in the Muslim community with the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq and hawkish remarks towards Syria and Iran.

"There is large-scale disillusionment with how the US has conducted itself in Muslim countries."

One of Britain’s most radical Muslim leaders said he believed the majority of Muslims in the UK supported al-Qaeda-style terror attacks on the US.

Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad, who heads the London-based group Al-Muhajiroun, said British Muslims were afraid to voice their real feelings about the coalition war in Iraq.

"Since the introduction of the new anti-terrorism laws, Muslims are terrified to speak their minds," he said.

Meanwhile, fears of a major terrorist attack in Britain intensified following the emergence of new evidence to support the suspicion that al-Qaeda was behind the terrorist atrocities in Madrid. Britain’s security services are still believed to be on their second highest level of alert - "severe general", which was raised from "substantial" last year following intelligence about plans by al-Qaeda supporters from North Africa.

The alerts are for the security services only, including the police, the army, MI6 and MI5, and are not usually made public. They were introduced after the Bali bombings to help those involved in the fight against terrorism respond to changing circumstances.

A spokesman for the Home Office said yesterday: "Since 11September there has been a heightened sense of threat.

"At present there is no specific threat, but if there is we will make that known where that would help people to avoid a particular attack."

Meanwhile, Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, said the Madrid rail bombings underlined the need for rail passengers to be alert and to report anything suspicious to the authorities.

"If there are any packages, any briefcases and suitcases that don’t appear to belong to any particular individual they should ask each other," he told BBC1’s The Politics Show.

"They should ask fellow passengers, they should bring it to the attention of guards and those in authority.

"It is that kind of action that can make an enormous difference if the public do co-operate, as I am sure they will."

Mr Hoon’s comments followed those of the country’s biggest rail workers’ union, the Rail Maritime and Transport Union, which called for increased security on the UK’s rail network in the wake of the bombings.

Senior Scotland Yard officers were reported to be reviewing security measures already in place in London.

British Transport Police have confirmed that plain-clothes counter-terrorism officers will conduct patrols on the London Underground system, and uniformed officers are to begin stop and search checks at Tube stations as vigilance is stepped up. Passengers on the Underground have been warned to make their own checks for unattended baggage, British Transport Police said, and a new poster campaign will be launched this week.