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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 November, 2003, 03:41 GMT
London 'is top terrorist target'
Heathrow airport
Security has been increased at likely targets such as Heathrow
London is at greater risk of a terrorist attack by Islamic extremists than any major city in the US or Western Europe, a study has found.

The Control Risks Group said the UK's role in the Iraq war and big Muslim population meant there was a "serious possibility" of a suicide bomb.

Its 2004 RiskMap report on security in 195 countries raised the risk rating for London from "low" to "medium".

The rest of Britain - not seen as a political target - remained "low" risk.

"London has become the pre-eminent terrorist target in Western Europe," said research director Jake Stratton.

Previously the Muslim extremist threat had been "vague, undefined war against the West", he said.

"But in the last year Britain has reinforced its position in the eyes of the Islamic world as the major ally of the US."

Mr Stratton said that while the US remained at risk from terrorists, there were several targets across the country which reduced the risk to each individual city.

Extreme: Burundi, Liberia, Somalia
High: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Colombia
Medium: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Thailand, Bolivia, Morocco, London
Low: Rest of UK, US, Canada, most of western Europe
Source: Control Risks Group

In contrast, London was the only place of major political significance in Britain, making it a "very attractive target for Islamic extremists".

The involvement of two British Islamic extremists in a suicide bombing mission in Israel earlier this year also indicated that there were militants operating in the UK, the study said.

A suicide bombing remained the most likely method of attack, whether it be in the form of a single terrorist wearing an explosive device or a truck packed with explosives, Mr Stratton said.

He added: "It's very simple to set up and very difficult to guard against. It is vital that we do everything possible to combat the threat."

Real IRA

The report agreed with the warnings of London police chiefs in July that a suicide bomb attack would eventually occur in the UK.

It also said that the Real IRA would continue to carry out shootings and bombings in Northern Ireland, although the risk of a republican attack on mainland Britain remained low.

In the last year Britain has reinforced its position in the eyes of the Islamic world as the major ally of the US
Control Risks Group's Jake Stratton
War-torn African nations Burundi, Somalia and Liberia were listed as the world's most dangerous countries, where the risk was categorised as "extreme".

The security risk in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Colombia were rated as high.

Kosovo, Albania and Bosnia were ranked the most dangerous places in Europe.

Low-risk countries included the rest of the UK, the United States, Canada, Australia and most of western Europe.

Fourteen countries were raised from low to "medium risk" status - mainly in the Gulf, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain - but also including Thailand, Bolivia and Morocco.

Despite the warnings, the report concluded that "while the shadow of large and indiscriminate attacks hangs over major Western cities, businesses should continue doing business in Europe with confidence".

Control Risks Group is an international business risk consultancy.

BBC London's Tim Donovan
"Police say it is a case of when, rather than whether, someone attempts a suicide attack in London."

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