UK ‘chemical bomb plot foiled’

Intelligence and security services are said to have intercepted communications between members of a group thought to be sympathetic to al-Qaeda.

The group is reported to have been trying to obtain a combination of explosive and a highly toxic substance called osmium tetroxide.

However, the police have refused to comment on the story in any way – the story emerged in the USA and has been widely reported on both sides of the Atlantic.

Without naming its source, the BBC said the potential target was thought to be areas in which there would be concentrations of people, possibly within a confined space.

Osmium tetroxide is used mainly in research laboratories. It can attack soft human tissue and could blind anyone who breathed in its fumes or cause them to choke to death in agony, according to British and US press reports.

Britain’s Sky News network reported that intelligence sources, which it did not name, had confirmed a plan to launch a chemical attack in Britain had been prevented.

Sky added the security services were alerted after a mention of osmium tetroxide was picked up by a UK Government electronic listening centre in Cheltenham, southwest England.

Like the BBC, it did not say when the alleged plot had been thwarted.

Britain, a key ally of the United States in Iraq and in its “war on terror”, remains on a heightened state of alert against a feared attack on its soil, particularly following the Madrid bombings.

In another development, the Czech Republic said it was setting up a NATO-backed camp for foreign military to be trained in combating chemical attacks of the kind feared in London.

Before the end of the year, some 400 foreign military personnel – including Austrians, Estonians and Greeks – will attend the Vyskov camp, believed to be the first of its kind in the world.

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