London, Nov 3 : British security services MI5 and MI6 are learnt to have intercepted up to 100 potential terrorists posing as postgraduate students, who they (security services) believe tried to gain access to top laboratories and collect the materials and expertise needed to create chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons.
It has also been found that most of these students belong to countries such as Pakistan and Iran.
"Dozens of suspected terrorists have attempted to infiltrate Britain's top laboratories in order to develop weapons of mass destruction during the past year," reported The Observer.
According to the paper, extensive background checks from the security services, using a new vetting scheme, have led to the rejection of overseas students - a number of whom are thought to be from 'countries of concern' such as Iran and Pakistan - who were believed to be intent on developing weapons of mass destruction.
A Foreign Office spokesman was quoted as saying: "There is empirical evidence of a problem with postgraduate students becoming weapons proliferators."
The overseas students were intercepted under the Academic Technology Approval Scheme, introduced by universities and the security services last November, the report said.
It raised questions over how many terrorist suspects might have already infiltrated the UK's laboratory network. Rihab Taha, dubbed 'Dr Germ', who worked on Saddam Hussein's biological weapons programme, studied for her PhD in plant toxins at East Anglia University's School of Biological Sciences in Norwich, the report said.
A number of Iraqi scientists - funded by Baghdad - infiltrated several British microbiology laboratories before the 1990-91 Gulf War, the report said, adding that Britain has about 800 laboratories in hospitals, universities and private firms where staff have access to lethal viruses such as Ebola, polio and avian flu or could acquire the technology and expertise to develop deadly weapons.
The trial of two National Health Service (NHS) doctors, Mohammad Asha, 27, a Jordanian national, and Bilal Abdulla, 29, from Iraq, who allegedly plotted car bomb attacks in London's West End and Glasgow airport last year, has intensified scrutiny on the radicalisation of students, the report said.