Ji­hadis plan UK chem­i­cal out­rage

Deadly chlo­rine at­tack now ‘more likely than not’, warn ter­ror chiefs

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - News - By Mark Ni­col

TER­ROR chiefs be­lieve a dev­as­tat­ing chem­i­cal weapons at­tack in Bri­tain is now ‘more likely than not’, The Mail on Sun­day can re­veal.

The chill­ing as­sess­ment fol­lows the in­ter­cep­tion of ‘chat­ter’ be­tween se­nior fig­ures in Is­lamic State (IS). The ter­ror group has been in­spired by the poi­son­ing of for­mer KGB agent Sergei Skri­pal and his daugh­ter, Yu­lia, by Rus­sian agents in March.

Be­fore the novi­chok at­tack in Sal­is­bury, the Gov­ern­ment’s Joint Ter­ror­ism Anal­y­sis Cen­tre (JTAC) put the risk of a chem­i­cal weapons strike by ji­hadis at 25 per cent.

Se­cu­rity sources say that has now surged to more than 50 per cent. There are par­tic­u­lar fears over the po­ten­tial for a chlo­rine bomb to be det­o­nated on the Lon­don Un­der­ground. The threat is con­sid­ered so se­vere that ter­ror chiefs se­cretly met with emer­gency ser­vices bosses a fort­night ago to ‘war game’ their re­sponse to such an atroc­ity.

Teams, in­clud­ing of­fi­cers from the Met Po­lice’s Emer­gency Pre­pared­ness Op­er­a­tional Com­mand Unit (CO3) and of­fi­cials from the Lon­don Mayor’s of­fice, were faced with a sce­nario of si­mul­ta­ne­ous at­tacks at Ox­ford Street and Wa­ter­loo Un­der­ground sta­tions by ter­ror­ists car­ry­ing chlo­rine bombs hid­den in ruck­sacks.

When such de­vices are trig­gered, the rel­a­tively harm­less liq­uid chlo­rine be­comes a deadly vapour that mixes with fluid in the lungs and eyes of vic­tims to form cor­ro­sive hy­drochlo­ric acid. The gas would be par­tic­u­larly dan­ger­ous in con­fined and densely packed Un­der­ground sta­tions, es­pe­cially for chil­dren and the el­derly.

The re­cent sim­u­la­tion in­volved com­muters be­ing killed as the chlo­rine gas swept through trains and along plat­forms. Many more ‘died’ as ter­ri­fied pas­sen­gers fought to es­cape. It was con­cluded that up to 100 lives could be lost in such an at­tack, with hun­dreds more in­jured.

A se­cu­rity source in­volved in the ex­er­cise said: ‘The chlo­rine vapour would be very lo­calised and would last a few min­utes be­fore it evap­o­rated. While fa­tal, the stam­pede to get out of the Tube sta­tion would cost far more lives than the chem­i­cal. That’s why it is im­por­tant to ed­u­cate peo­ple about the threat of these weapons. The more they know, the less in­clined they’ll be to panic.’

Last night, Hamish de Bret­tonGor­don, an ex­pert on chem­i­cal weapons, said IS bomb-mak­ers in Syria had al­ready de­vel­oped the nec­es­sary skills to make such de­vices and could pass such ex­per­tise to ex­trem­ists in Bri­tain.

He said: ‘These tac­tics have been mor­bidly suc­cess­ful for IS in the Syria war zone, while the nerveagent at­tack in Sal­is­bury has shown that just a tiny amount of a chem­i­cal can have a huge im­pact.’

Re­spond­ing to The Mail on Sun­day’s ex­clu­sive re­port, Se­cu­rity Minister Ben Wal­lace said last night: ‘I have con­sis­tently warned that a chem­i­cal at­tack in the UK is get­ting more likely. We have well-tested plans to re­spond to an at­tack and min­imise the im­pact, should an in­ci­dent oc­cur.’

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