London: Britain is planning to deploy surface-to-air missiles on six sites in London, amidst reports that al Qaeda is plotting to blow up an American airliner and has trained a Norwegian Muslim convert in an attempt to evade airport security before the Olympics.
Residents in London areas where the Rapier missiles are proposed to be deployed yesterday staged a protest and signed a petition opposing the move.
The six sites where the missiles are proposed to be deployed include the Lexington Building in Tower Hamlets, Fred Wigg Tower in Waltham Forest, east London, Blackheath Common; Oxleas Wood, Eltham; William Girling Reservoir, Enfield and Barn Hill in Epping Forest.
On the deployment of missiles, the Ministry of Defence said the safety of the July 27-August 12 Olympic Games was paramount and a "broad range of community engagement" had taken place.
During a major Olympics-focussed security exercise in April, Commander General Sir Nick Parker explained there must be a plan which could deal with "the unlikely but very serious threat" that might exist to the Olympic Park.
He said: "It`s an air threat, really categorised in two ways, the sort of 9/11 threat everyone knows about, and also for the lower, slower type of target which might pop up closer to the Olympic Park, which we would need to intervene."
Quoting intelligence sources, The Sunday Times reported that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) had trained a Norwegian convert and is
understood to have also selected a target, believed to be a US passenger jet.
The paper said that the plot confirmed fears among US and British intelligence agencies that al Qaeda was seeking to recruit radicalised Westerners in an attempt to evade airport security.
The report quoted an unnamed Whitehall official as saying: "There is terrorist plotting going on irrespective of the Olympics. The only thing that connects this to the Olympics is the fact that they are about to happen."