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EDITIONS
Sunday, 10 November, 2002, 10:29 GMT
Public 'must remain vigilant'
Police search the scene of the bombing at the Sari nightclub in Bali
Blunkett says the Bali bombing holds key lessons
Britons must be on guard against terror threats over Christmas and New Year, but there have been no specific "dirty bomb" warnings, Home Secretary David Blunkett has said.

A draft home office statement released by mistake last week warned of a possible chemical or nuclear terrorist attack on the UK using a "dirty bomb" or poison gas.


All of us have got to be vigilant coming up to Christmas and the New Year

David Blunkett
But speaking on BBC One's Breakfast with Frost, Mr Blunkett again apologised for the mistake in sending out the release, and stressed the need for vigilance.

The suggestion in the document that terrorists could use boats or planes in future attacks was fanciful, "not serious warnings to the public".

Mr Blunkett, who has said the statement was toned down to avoid creating unjustified panic, said the danger to the UK was "very similar to this time last year".

"All of us have got to be vigilant coming up to Christmas and the New Year," said Mr Blunkett.

'Be watchful'

The home secretary said the mistaken release had sent mixed signals but said the real message was that the government would "do everything we can to protect Britain".

"We need the vigilance of everyone around us, particularly at major airports and those particular gathering points where people know there is a risk, as there is today on Armistice Day."

David Blunkett
Blunkett: Searching for the right security balance
Mr Blunkett said the Bali bombing underlined the need to balance keeping normal life running with ensuring necessary safeguards were in place.

The draft Home Office statement was released in error on Thursday, but withdrawn minutes later and replaced with a revised text.


The later statement contained a more general warning of "ever more dramatic and devastating" terror attacks.

Poison gas

The draft statement warned that al-Qaeda could strike with traditional terror tactics or new, "surprising" methods.

"Maybe they will try to develop a so-called dirty bomb, or some kind of poison gas; maybe they will try to use boats or trains rather than planes," it said.

The second statement said: "If al-Qaeda could mount an attack upon key economic targets, or upon our transport infrastructure, they would."

The warnings came in the foreword to a summary of anti-terrorist measures taken by the UK in recent months.

Both statements urged people to remain vigilant to the continuing threat of Irish and international terrorism.

Wider threat

Home Office press releases on terrorism
The two statements released by the Home Office
Professor Paul Wilkinson of the Centre for Terrorism Studies at St Andrews University said it was a "possibility" that there was a threat from a "dirty bomb" attack in the UK.

So-called "dirty bombs" scatter deadly radioactive material using conventional explosive devices, he said.

They were not as immediately destructive as traditional explosives, but they could ultimately prove far more devastating in terms of casualties.

That was because they had the potential to spread radioactive material over a wide area, possibly leading to cancer and radiation poisoning, argued Prof Wilkinson.


 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Margaret Gilmore reports
"There is no new threat specific to London"
Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Simon Hughes
"It was clearly an error in the Home Office"
See also:

08 Nov 02 | Politics
08 Nov 02 | UK
08 Nov 02 | Politics
01 Nov 02 | England
30 Oct 02 | Politics
09 Sep 02 | Americas
03 Jul 02 | Politics
08 Nov 02 | Politics
08 Nov 02 | Politics
Internet links:


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