More than 20 Britons who have trained in al Qaeda terror camps inside Pakistan have returned to Britain, according to Pakistani intelligence.
The Britons, whose families are from Pakistan, were monitored by Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence agency, Sky News reported. But the ISI failed to notify British intelligence until after the men entered the country, the news agency reported.
Pakistani intelligence officials were indifferent about the activities of the Britons, sources told Sky News. "We know the number of British Pakistanis engaged in what we would call suspicious activities is much higher -- probably in the hundreds -- but, to be frank, this isn't a Pakistani priority," one official said. "The intelligence services here have much bigger things to worry about and these guys haven't committed any crime on Pakistani soil."
Four of the Britons are thought to have actively fought inside Afghanistan. The men claimed to have entered Pakistan to visit relatives, study, vacation, or work for a charity. "The suspects are aged between 17 and 23 and have apparently created 'sufficient suspicion' with their activities for the ISI to believe they pose a 'potential danger' to Britain," Sky News reported.
British intelligence officers are nearly overwhelmed with tracking terror suspects operating inside Britain, many of whom are Pakistanis. In November 2008, an intelligence report stated there are "extremist concentrations" in "London, [and] Birmingham, with significant extremist networks in the South East, notably Luton."
Thousands of suspected British terrorists are supporting terror attacks inside Britain and abroad. "The majority of extremists are British nationals of south Asian, mainly Pakistani origin but there are also extremists from north and east Africa, Iraq and the Middle East," the report stated.
Al Qaeda has long sought to penetrate security in Western countries by recruiting and training operatives who hold dual passports. These operatives have a better chance of being able to travel to and from Pakistan without raising too many flags.
Many of the major post-Sept. 11 plots and attacks against the West have been traced back to Pakistan's tribal areas. Western Arabs and South Asians have traveled to Pakistan's tribal areas for approval, guidance, training, financing, and support to conduct their attacks.
US intelligence officials are concerned that al Qaeda's next big attack, like past attacks and foiled plots, will originate in Pakistan's tribal areas.
"We believe the next major attack will be carried out by someone carrying a Western passport," a US intelligence official told The Long War Journal in September 2008. The official was clearly worried about the deteriorating security situation in northwestern Pakistan.
"It is imperative we stop the next [Sept. 11] attack," the official said, noting that the Predator campaign in northwestern Pakistan is aimed at taking out al Qaeda's external network, which is tasked with striking major targets in the West. "This is what we are trying to prevent."