British Prime Minister Theresa May, distressed by the third deadly terror attack since late March, said Britons “cannot and must not pretend things can continue as they are”, but local terror experts warn that Australia should prepare for similar events.
“We cannot and must not pretend things can continue as they are,” May said in a televised statement in front of her Downing Street office.
“We believe we are experiencing a new trend in the threat we face as terrorism breeds terrorism, and perpetrators are inspired … by copying one another and often using the crudest of means of attack.”
Professor Greg Barton, one of Australia’s most prominent counter-terrorism researchers, told The New Daily it was “not a matter of if, but when” Australia could expect to face another terror attack.
He said the “disturbing pattern” of terrorist attacks in Britain should heighten Australia’s security preparedness for terror threats on home soil as military pressure against Islamic State (IS) increases in the Middle East.
“London could be said to be the capital of the world – it’s an iconic, attractive target. But radicalised terror is not something that is unique to Britain,” Professor Barton said.
“About 850 to 1000 people from the United Kingdom went to fight for Islamic State in the Middle East and we know that about 250 Australian jihadists have gone to fight alongside terror groups.
“We’ve got a serious problem in Australia as well, especially given our population.”
The federal government has reported four terror attacks and 12 disrupted terrorist plots in Australia since September 2014.
‘IS on brink of collapse’
University of New South Wales Canberra cyber security professor Greg Austin, who lived in London and Brussels on and off between 2003 and 2013 working in the area of violent extremism, said he believed the main driver behind the increase in terror attacks was the “serious build-up of military pressure against IS in Syria and Iraq”.
He told The New Daily that Australia, along with the rest of the world, should be more alert as the campaign in the Middle East intensifies.
He predicts the “largest spike in terrorist attacks instigated by radicalised people on their own citizens” in the six to 18 months following the inevitable defeat of IS in Syria and Iraq.
“The Islamic State forces are about to be exterminated in Syria and Iraq,” Professor Austin said.
“I expect we’ll see intensified IS-sponsored terror and copycat attacks, particularly in Europe where the majority of IS supporters are located outside of Syria.
“The Australian government has talked about the prevention of about four terrorist plots a year. The UK has had three acts of terror in three months.
“This is the new frequency.”
Professor Austin added that US President Donald Trump’s travel ban was “feeding into this” but was by no means a significant cause for the patterns of increased terror violence.
“I do not believe there’s any well thought-out political strategy behind these attacks. In my opinion, it’s driven primarily by anyone with vague sympathy for these extremist groups in Iraq and Syria,” he said.
“What I learnt about my time in Europe is that I can go to Turkey and feel safe among a highly-concentrated Muslim community. It’s not about that.
“It’s about individual criminal terrorists and we should not get sidetracked by discussions about Muslim immigration.”
Meanwhile, Professor Barton said the low-tech nature of the attack – a van, knives and fake explosive vests – was a sign of “weakness”.
The London bombings of 2005 were far more sophisticated in nature in comparison, involving a series of coordinated attacks.
“If this is the best they can do, then it speaks to the reduced power of terrorists.”