British security officials were on Sunday reported as saying the Yemeni branch of al-Qaeda controlled by U.S.-born radical preacher Anwar al-Awlaki — dubbed the “new bin Laden” — was heavily involved in recruiting British Muslims; some of whom, it was claimed, had returned to Britain after training and could be plotting attacks.
The Sunday Times claimed 200 British “extremists” allegedly trained in Yemen were now back and seen to pose “the single most potent threat” to Britain amid fears of a terrorist backlash after the killing of Osama bin-Laden.
“Security services say the recruits from Britain are now either active in terrorist plotting or have been spiritually recruited to the cause of violent extremism by the Yemeni branch of al-Qaeda,” said the newspaper.
Hundreds of Britons, it claimed, had travelled to Yemen in the past two years for “Arabic or religious training” and fallen under the influence of Awlaki. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian youth who allegedly tried to blow up an American plane on Christmas Day in 2009 by attempting to detonate an explosive hidden in his underpants, was a student in Britain when, it is claimed, he was swayed by Awlaki's internet lectures.
Roshanara Choudhry, a young British student of East London jailed for stabbing her local MP last year, claimed that she was inspired by Awlaki’s preachings.
Awlaki was also said to have been behind a failed plot last October to send two bombs disguised as printer cartridges as air cargo to various cities in America.
The Sunday Times report said there had been a dramatic increase in the number of Britons allegedly recruited to violent extremism.
“Figures released by security officials in 2009 suggested no more than 20 of them had been recruited to violent extremism. Now as many as 200 are believed by security insiders to have returned to Britain after falling under the sway of Awlaki, known as ‘the Bin Laden of the internet’".