The invasion of Iraq “substantially” increased the terror threat to Britain and turned British Muslims against their own country, says the former head of the MI5 spy agency. Baroness Eliza Manningham-Buller, controller of the domestic intelligence agency between 2002 and 2007, said yesterday that her agency “didn’t anticipate the degree to which British citizens would become involved” in al-Qaida-linked terror plots and that the Iraq war provided a “highly significant” source of motivation for British-born terrorists.

Giving evidence at the Chilcott inquiry, she said MI5 was “pretty well swamped” with intelligence suggesting a radicalisation of young Muslims in Britain after the 2003 invasion. She said British involvement in Iraq “radicalised” some British citizens, “not a whole generation, a few among a generation – who saw our involvement in Iraq on top of our involvement in Afghanistan as an attack on Islam”.

Asked what specific proof there was of a direct correlation between the Iraq invasion and the growth in Muslim terror plots in Britain she said: “I think we can produce evidence because of the numerical evidence of the number of plots, the number of leads, the number of people identified and the correlation of that to Iraq and the statements of people as to why they were involved. What Iraq did was to produce a fresh impetus of people prepared to engage in terrorism.”

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