Brits worried about Somalia
London - British intelligence chiefs have warned Prime Minister Gordon Brown's government that Somalia is the next challenge in efforts to stem Islamic terrorism, a report said on Sunday.
The officials have warned that the number of young Britons travelling to Somalia to fight in the war-torn country or take part in "terror training camps" is rising, the Independent on Sunday said, citing unnamed sources.
In particular, they are concerned about the number of people with no direct family connection to Somalia who are travelling there.
The number travelling there every year has more than quadrupled to at least 100 since 2004, according to the newspaper.
"I have seen figures that are not in the public domain that suggest there is an increasing flow of young Britons into Somalia," said opposition Conservative MP Patrick Mercer, chairperson of the counter-terrorism subcommittee.
"There is now a mixture of British people, from numerous backgrounds, who are heading out there and that is causing great concern."
The Shebab, an al-Qaeda inspired movement, is spearheading a three-month-old offensive to topple Somalia's President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and has imposed strict Sharia law in areas under its control.
The US has expressed fear that the Shebab would turn Somalia into an extremist haven similar to the border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan - which has been a top priority for the Barack Obama administration.