Gordon Brown is considering introducing restrictions on offenders travelling to Pakistan and other countries in an attempt to stop radical Muslims going abroad for training by terror groups, it emerged last night.
Powers to ban those convicted of terror offences from travelling overseas on their release are to be included in a new crime and terrorism bill. But ministers acknowledge that such a measure would not have stopped Muktar Ibrahim, the 21/7 bomb plotter jailed for life yesterday, from going to Pakistan because his previous convictions were for only minor offences.
Travel to certain countries could be restricted, and those convicted of less serious crimes could be included in a ban. "We may need to go wider than just terrorist offences," Mr Brown's spokesman said.
At prime minister's question time yesterday, Mr Brown said he was "looking very carefully" at how Ibrahim was allowed to travel to Pakistan for terror training. Ibrahim, a refugee from Eritrea, was granted a British passport in 2004 despite juvenile convictions.
"When he was guilty of crimes in Britain in the early 1990s and later 1990s, under ... new laws he would have been deported from this country," Mr Brown said.
"He applied for a passport, he applied for citizenship of this country, and received citizenship because all his offences as a juvenile had been wiped off. That would not happen now and he would not get citizenship of this country. And I'm looking very carefully at the circumstances that surround his visit to Pakistan."
Mr Brown also indicated yesterday that he is ready to press ahead with proposals to extend the time police can detain terror suspects without charge. After resisting talk of changes to anti-terror laws during the attempted car bombings in London and Glasgow, Mr Brown told MPs he wanted to extend the maximum time for pre-charge detention from the current limit of 28 days.
In November 2005 the House of Lords defeated government plans to extend the maximum pre-charge detention to 90 days. Lord Carlile, the independent reviewer of anti-terror legislation, supports an extension with stronger judicial oversight, but the Tories and the Liberal Democrats have resisted that. Other anti-terror measures are likely to be less controversial, including changes to enable post-charge questioning of terror suspects, and enhanced sentences for terrorist-related offences.
Links between Ibrahim and Mohammad Sidique Khan, the leader of the July 7 suicide bomb attacks, are still being investigated, but a senior security source believes both men may have attended the same training camp in north Waziristan on the Afghan-Pakistan border, where they learned to make almost identical hydrogen peroxide bombs to blow up London underground trains.
The source said intelligence suggested Khan and Ibrahim had gone out to Pakistan in late 2004 to fight jihad but were sent back to attack Britain by al-Qaida.