London: Pakistan has been categorised among the "high priorities" for Britain's overseas counter-terrorism work as many Britons continue to travel to that country to join al-Qaeda and receive training, the government said on Tuesday.
"Pakistan and Yemen remain very high priorities for our overseas counter-terrorism work," the UK Home Office said in its annual Contest (Counter-Terrorism Strategy) report.
"Pakistan and the tribal areas along the Afghan border remain of the highest importance to our national security. Although depleted in numbers and capability, al-Qaeda continues to operate from this region and still has the capability to conduct terrorist attacks in the UK and other countries. People from this country (Britain) continue to travel to this area to join al-Qaeda and receive al-Qaeda training," the report added.
The Home Office report, based on assessments by British intelligence agencies, also refers to a number of cases involving British Muslims with links to the region. "In April 2012, four people were charged in connection with planning terrorist attacks in the UK and are due to stand trial in April 2013. They are suspected of having links to terrorists in Pakistan. On 1 March 2013, all pleaded guilty to the charge against them," the report notes.
It goes on to give details of a major programme to support the government of Pakistan in reforming the legal process, from crime scene management and evidence collection through to prosecutor training and changes to legislation.
The programme is being coordinated with a number of international donors and supported by European Union funding. Some of the other threats highlighted in the latest report warn of the risk to Britain and other European nations posed by foreign fighters now gaining military experience in Syria.
While stressing that no serious terrorist attacks took place in Britain over the last year and a number of serious attempted attacks were foiled with significant arrests, the Home Office pointed out that Britain's security services have stepped up preparations to deal with a possible terrorist attack in the UK using biological weapons.
Officials call for more work in the field as biological weapons could be easier for terrorists to use than other weapons of mass destruction, such as chemical or radiological devices.