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Updated: July 20, 2010 18:53 IST

Britain’s former spy chief: Iraq war led to surge in terrorist plots

DPA
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Former head of Britain's domestic spy agency MI5 Eliza Manningham-Buller. File photo: AP.
Former head of Britain's domestic spy agency MI5 Eliza Manningham-Buller. File photo: AP.

Britain’s involvement in the invasion of Iraq led to an almost unmanageable increase in the number of terrorist plots against it, former head of British intelligence revealed on Tuesday.

Speaking at the official inquiry into the Iraq war, Elizabeth Manningham—Buller said: “Our involvement in Iraq radicalized, for want of a better word, a whole generation of young people — not a whole generation, a few among a generation — who saw our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan as being an attack on Islam.” British involvement in the 2003 invasion was highly controversial at the time, with two cabinet ministers resigning and more than 1 million people demonstrating against the war in London.

Ms. Manningham—Buller, head of the internal security service MI5 at the time, said: “Arguably we gave Osama bin Laden his Iraqi jihad so that he was able to move into Iraq in a way that he was not before.” “We were pretty well swamped — that’s possibly an exaggeration — but we were very overburdened with intelligence on a broad scale that was pretty well more than we could cope with in terms of plots, leads to plots and things that we needed to pursue,” she said.

Two years after the invasion, four suicide bombers blew themselves up on the London underground and bus system, killing 52 commuters and injuring more than 700 people.

Ms. Manningham—Buller also played down fears raised at the time by the government of Tony Blair, that Iraq under Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, and was prepared to use them.

She cited a memo in which MI5 said it had not seen “convincing” intelligence that the Iraqi regime had developed “useful” cooperation with al—Qaeda terrorists about chemical and biological weapons.

She also dismissed suggestions that Saddam was involved in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. “There is no credible intelligence that demonstrates that Iraq was implicated in planning the September 11 attacks.”

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