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British Intelligence Chief Says Iraq War Increased Terror Threat

Eliza Manningham-Buller, former head of Britain's domestic intelligence service MI5 (file photo)

Eliza Manningham-Buller, former head of Britain's domestic intelligence service MI5 (file photo)

Britain's intelligence chief during the Iraq War says the conflict increased the terrorism threat to her country and radicalized many Muslims who saw it as an attack on Islam.

Former MI-5 chief Eliza Manningham-Buller's testimony came Tuesday to a British panel probing the war. She said there was no credible intelligence linking Iraq to the September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States or of links between Iraq and al Qaida. Manningham-Buller directed MI-5 from 2002 to 2007.

Manningham-Buller said the CIA shared those views, forcing then-U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to rely on intelligence gathered by his own department.

Manningham-Buller said she believes both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars served to radicalize young Muslims. By 2004, the year after the U.S.-led invasion, Manningham-Buller said the number of terrorist threats in Britain vastly increased. She said the invasion also allowed Osama Bin Laden to move into Iraq "in a way he was not before."

Earlier this year, former Prime Minister Tony Blair defended the British decision to join the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. He told the panel the terror attacks on the United States dramatically changed the U.S. and British view of the threat posed by Iraq. He said that after the attacks, he could no longer take the risk of Saddam developing weapons of mass destruction.

Both Mr. Blair and former U.S. President George W. Bush believed the late Iraqi leader had such weapons, though none were found. This led many critics to question whether the war was legal. Other British critics have accused Mr. Blair of promising British support for the invasion in 2002 - more than a year before parliament approved military action.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.