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Islamist terror threat to West overrated: ex-MI6

LONDON, July 8, (KUNA): The UK government and media have blown the “Islamist terrorism threat” out of proportion, giving extremists publicity that is counter-productive, a former head of Britain’s intelligence service has said. Sir Richard Dearlove, chief of the external intelligence service, known as MI6, at the time of the Iraq invasion, said that Britons spreading “bloodcurdling” messages on the Internet should be ignored. He told an audience in London Monday night there had been a fundamental change in the nature of Islamist extremism since the Arab spring. It had created a major political problem in the Middle East but the West, including Britain, was only “marginally affected”, Dearlove added.

The address was widely quoted by the British media Tuesday. Unlike the threat posed by al-Qaeda before and in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks 13 years ago, the West was not the main target of the radical fundamentalism that created ISIS, (the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant), Dearlove said. Addressing the Royal United Services Institute, the London-based security and defence thinktank, he said the conflict was essentially “Muslim on Muslim”. He made it clear he believed the way the British government and the media were giving the extremists the “oxygen of publicity” was counter-productive. He accused the media here of turning “misguided young men” into paraiahs. The media were making monsters of “misguided young men, rather pathetic figures” who were getting coverage “more than their wildest dreams”, said Dearlove, adding: “It is surely better to ignore them.”

The former MI6 chief, now master of Pembroke College, Cambridge University, was speaking to a prepared text hours after the ITV commercial TV station programme “Good Morning Britain” broadcast an interview with a Briton who had appeared in an ISIS video saying he was recruited through the internet and was prepared to die for his cause. Abdul Raqib Amin, who was brought up in Aberdeen, Scotland, appeared in an online video last month with two men from Cardiff urging Western Muslims to join the fighting with ISIS. He told Good Morning Britain: “I left the UK to fight for the sake of Allah, to give everything I have for the sake of Allah. One of the happiest moments in my life was when the plane took off from Gatwick airport. I was so happy, as a Muslim you cannot live in the country of kuffars [non-believers].

I left the house with the intention not to go back, I’m going to stay and fight until the khilafah [rule of Islam] is established or I die,” he added. Dearlove said he was concerned about the influence of the media on the government’s security policy. It was time to take what he called a “more proportionate approach to terrorism.” The domestic intelligence service known as MI5, MI6, and listening centre GCHQ devoted a greater share of their resources to countering Islamist fundamentalism than they did to the Soviet Union during the cold war, or to Irish terrorism that had cost the lives of more UK citizens and British soldiers than al-Qaeda had done, Dearlove noted.

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