UK’s MI5 Director Warns UK is Facing Intense Terror Threat

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MI5’s Director, Andrew Parker has warned the UK’s security services are facing an intense challenge from terrorism. He said the tempo of counter-terrorism operations was the highest he has seen in his service with MI5, currently running at 500 live operations involving 3,000 individuals. Even though seven major attacks have been prevented in the last seven months in 2017, the UK has suffered five attacks, four in London, one in Manchester with four inspired the Islamist narrative, one allegedly by the far right narrative.

IS in RaqqaIS flag

 

 

 

 

 

The threat comes from individuals who have returned to the UK after having fought with Islamic State (IS) in Syria/Iraq and IS’ use of electronic communications and propaganda to recruit/inspire individuals to carry out attacks (mainly low level using vehicles and sharply bladed instruments). Following the loss of control of Raqqa this week, although IS no longer controls major/important geographical locations, their narrative is still alive and influencing individuals. Due to the overwhelming forces fighting them, it is likely IS could see they would lose the territory they controlled and have made preparations to carry out their fight by use of guerrilla warfare in Syria/Iraq, placed sleeper cells in western states containing individuals who have fought and been trained in Syria/Iraq and continue to use their effective communications system to recruit/influence new followers. This in itself will pose a threat to many states’ national security in the next few years.

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Regarding the UK, Andrew parker did not mention the terrorist threat the UK faces from the extreme far right. Since the group National Action were proscribed as a terrorist group in December 2016 there have been a number of arrests linked to the group. This includes the arrests on the 27th September 2017 where eleven suspected members of National Action were arrested with six of them suspected of preparing acts of terrorism.

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This explains why the UK’s threat level is still at severe (an attack is highly likely). Questions will continue to be asked as to how attacks still occur, but as Andrew Parker said, seven serious attacks were prevented in 2017 alone. The UK’s counter-terrorism model of security where the security services work alongside the police supported by units like the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC) is still effective. Those assessed as a risk will be investigated, but those who are not on any intelligence system or who is perceived as a peripheral figure still pose a threat. It is impossible to mount 24 hour, seven days a week surveillance on all those in the intelligence systems. It is logical that resources are focused on the greatest risk and as such I see the UK’s threat level remaining at sever for the near future.

 

I discussed this on BBC Radio Scotland at 6.50am this morning and will be again for BBC Radio WM between 9.05-9.20am (BST) today.

 

UK Terror Threat Critical

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Following the Parsons Green bomb attack, late last night (15th September 2017) the UK’s terror threat rose from severe to critical, which means a terrorist attack is imminent.

This means there is reasonable suspicion that another attack will occur, possibly similar to that seen in Parsons Green. The Metropolitan Police’s  Asst Commissioner Mark Rowley who is a senior counterterrorism officer has said that there is an intensive investigation into the attack. I agree with him that even where there is an attack by a so-called ‘lone wolf’ there is usually someone assisting them or even encouraging them to carry out the attack. Clearly the investigators will be going through the forensic evidence obtained at the scene, the CCTV footage, witness statements and the intelligence systems.  I mentioned this in my media interviews yesterday with the BBC news channel, BBC Radio, talkRadio and LBC (you can hear one of my interviews from yesterday with BBC Radio Merseyside that is 1 hour 1 minute 13 seconds in).

As I predicted in my last blog, Islamic State have claimed responsibility. In doing so this does not mean that whoever carried out the Parsons Green attack had direct orders from the group, it is as I explained someone who is inspired by the group’s Islamist narrative. This is pattern we have seen from Islamic State with most of the attacks that have been carried out in Europe over the last 18 months.

One question I was asked in most of my interviews yesterday was if this is the ‘new normal to expect’. It appears so and if anyone is suspicious about anything, no matter how minor, to support the UK police and security services call the anti-terrorism hotline 0800 789 321

Parsons Green Terrorism Incident, London

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At 8.20 am (BST) on Friday 15th September 2017 an IED exploded on a London Underground train at Parsons Green station on the District Line injuring 29 people. Fortunately no one was killed or seriously injured. That may due in part to reports coming out that the IED was crudely made. This indicates it was constructed by a person with little or no experience or knowledge of explosives. Even though a timer was attached, again it was a basic, crude device. This has led to speculation as to whether Parsons Green was not the perceived target as Parsons Green has not been perceived as a location subject to a high risk of terrorist attacks as there are more likely high risk locations further down the District Line such as St. James Park, Westminster, Embankment or Temple.

The Metropolitan Police has confirmed the bomb attack is a terrorist incident. At the time of writing there is speculation as to who is responsible. This has not been helped by the US President, Donald Trump’s tweet earlier today saying, ‘Another attack in London by a loser terrorist. These are sick and demented people who were in the sights of Scotland Yard. Must be proactive.’ [My emphasis] There is no doubt that this incident has been committed by a person influenced by any form of extremist cause, not just an Islamist one.

I would be surprised if it was someone acting under the political cause of the extreme far right as it is not their style of attack, they tend to attack individuals (and it looks like they too are using vehicles as seen in Charlottesville, US and outside Finsbury Park mosque in London – allegedly). Also this type of attack could alienate any potential far right followers as the majority of victims would have been white UK citizens. Again, I think it is highly unlikely it is someone linked to dissident Irish republicanism such as the new IRA as dissident Irish republicans have never attempted this type of attack and during the Irish Troubles the Provisional IRA’s England Department gave coded warnings when targeting civilian targets. From what information that is released to date, I think this has been carried out by someone inspired by the Islamist narrative, potentially by Islamic State. It may seem strange the bomber did not stay with the device, looking to kill themselves in the explosion, but as we have seen in recent attacks in Europe like Barcelona last month, the terrorist escaped the scene. Recently the UK and other western states have suffered attacks by people inspired by the Islamist narrative who have not received any formal training at camps in the likes of Syria or Iraq, hence why we have seen low level attacks easy to carry out by using vehicles driven into crowds and knife attacks.

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One source of information Islamic State is using to inspire individuals and recruit them to their cause is the online magazine Rumiyah (Islamic for Rome).The first issue was published in September 2016 and apart from containing propaganda outlining their military actions in countries where they are losing territory, Rumiyah encourages Muslims to carry out their military jihad in western countries like the UK. To aid them, Rumiyah contains articles advising on the best and most effective ways to carry out attacks like those we have recently witnessed.

It is important that if the Parsons Green station attack is another Islamic State inspired attack that all Muslims are not treated with disdain or seen as potential terrorists or terrorist sympathisers, as nothing is further from the truth and this would play into Islamic State’s hands in their propaganda war. I know of many Imams who have barred radicals from their mosques and members if the Muslim community who have passed on information to the police of suspected terrorist activity. It is worth noting that Islamic State do not just kill the kuffar who are Christians, they have killed more Muslims than any other group, Muslims Islamic State see as the murtaddin (Muslims who reject Islam). Those that Islamic State as murtaddin are not Muslims who have rejected Islam, they are Muslims who have rejected Islamic State as the evil group they are. Islamic State have carried out pogroms on many Muslims, killing literally thousands such as Shia Muslims and Kurdish Muslims who they see as apostates.

What can we do to help with these attacks? If you are suspicious of anything or have a feeling something is not right report it to the police or security or phone the anti-terrorist hotline 0800 555 111. The police will handle all information with sensitivity and it is better to be safe than sorry.