The United Kingdom is facing an unprecedented terrorist threat following an alarming string of terror attacks shaking the nation this year, according to Britain’s spy chief.
MI5 director-general Andrew Parker said in a rare public speech on Tuesday that the terror threat is “multi-dimensional, evolving rapidly and operating at a scale and pace we’ve not seen before”, speaking with 34 years’ experience in the field.
London has responded by increasing its police presence on its city streets, major sporting venues, tourist hubs and across the transport network.
About 4000 MI5 staff members are now running more than 500 live operations concerning as many as 3000 people who are known to be currently involved in extremist activity, Mr Parker said.
Since the latest incident, a metro bombing in London last month, the threat level in the UK was raised from “severe” to “critical” for a time, meaning attacks were perceived to be imminent.
“The threat is more diverse than I have ever known: plots developed here in the UK, but plots directed from overseas as well, plots online, complex scheming and also crude stabbings, lengthy planning but also spontaneous attacks,” spy chief Mr Parker told reporters in central London.
“Attacks can sometimes accelerate from inception, through planning, to action in just a handful of days.”
Mr Parker said there had been a “dramatic upshift” this year, which has produced attacks in London and the city of Manchester leading to a combined death toll of 36 people.
A further 20 attacks were foiled in Britain over the past four years and “many more” were prevented; seven of which in the past seven months.
He cited a record number of terrorism-related arrests, including 379 during the first six months of 2017.
Mr Parker said it is impossible for MI5 to stop every attack, but the service is continuing to identify and disrupt threats.
– with AAP