BRITAIN could be the next target of Islamic terror groups, says a leading academic.
Prof Paul Rogers, of Kirkburton, said Britain's support of US president George Bush would make the UK a target.
Two hundred people were killed and 1,500 injured in a co-ordinated bomb attack on the hub of Madrid's railway network last Thursday.
Prof Rogers said: "If this attack does turn out to be al Qaida, one must assume a similar attempt will be made in Britain.
"We have to face that - however uncomfortable it may be."
Prof Rogers, a professor of peace studies at Bradford University and the author of 17 books, said it was increasingly looking as if the Madrid bombings were conducted by al Qaida or a linked group.
This was because of the support the Spanish government gave the USA during the invasion of Iraq.
Prof Rogers said it was worrying that the Madrid attack was apparently planned and executed in total secrecy.
"It would involve quite a substantial group of people planning it for a number of months," he said.
"Such a group was able to operate in Spain without being detected by the security and intelligence forces.
"Such a group may be planning an operation in Britain."
Prof Rogers said al Qaida was not interested in making immediate political gain. "They have a much longer-term aim," he said. "Their goals are to remove the Americans from the Persian Gulf countries - particularly Saudi Arabia - and to reintroduce an extreme form of Islam across the Arab world and, to some extent, the Islamic world."
But he said that kind of aim had very limited appeal to most Muslims.
Prof Rogers said the war in Iraq was making it easier for terrorist organisations to recruit new members.
"They see it as an Arab country occupied by foreigners. There is deep opposition to that."
And he said another attack on the USA - rather than Britain - would probably be more attractive to al-Qaida.
Prof Rogers said Britain and America would have to put a higher priority on security and intelligence gathering to prevent more atrocities.
And he also wondered if the war on terror was being handled in the best way.
"These terrorists draw support from a wide range of people. Unless that wider support can be cut, it will be difficult to isolate them."
Prof Rogers said al Qaida probably had the support of 100,000 Iraqis who resented the American occupation.
Added to these were those in Saudi Arabia who wanted the overthrow of the Saudi royal family.
"Many people in Saudi Arabia believe the country is governed by an elite. Unless you have a connection with a Saudi prince you are never going to get on in Saudi Arabia," he said.