MI5 warning over terror-trained Britons

 

Britons are increasingly heading to the Middle East for terrorist training in preparation for attacks in the wake of the Arab Spring, the head of MI5 has said.

Jonathan Evans, the director-general of the Security Service, warned that parts of the Arab world were becoming a more permissive environment for al-Qa'ida and Britons were travelling there to “seek training and opportunities for militant activity”.

Some will return to the UK and pose a threat and the situation “could get worse as events unfold”, he said.

It is believed that up to 200 British residents and nationals are currently in the Arab world and either involved in training camps, being radicalised or operationally active with terror groups.

In a rare public speech just a month before the Olympic Games begin in London, Mr Evans said the Arab world was in “radical transition”.

“Today parts of the Arab world have once more become a permissive environment for al-Qa'ida,” he said.

“A small number of British would be jihadis are also making their way to Arab countries to seek training and opportunities for militant activity, as they do in Somalia and Yemen.

“Some will return to the UK and pose a threat here.

“This is a new and worrying development and could get worse as events unfold.

“So we will have to manage the short-term risks if there is to be a longer-term reward from the Arab Spring.”

Yemen, Libya, Nigeria and Egypt are all understood to pose a risk.

Speaking at Mansion House in central London, his first public speech since September 2010, Mr Evans said Britain had experienced a “credible terrorist attack plot about once a year since 9/11”.

Despite the perception in some quarters that, with terror mastermind Osama bin Laden dead and al-Qa'ida's senior leadership under serious pressure in Pakistan, the terrorist threat to the UK has evaporated, in reality it will outlast the Olympics, he said.

“In back rooms and in cars and on the streets of this country there is no shortage of individuals talking about wanting to mount terrorist attacks here,” he added.

“The threat is real and remains with us today.

“But we do see a changing shape of the threat internationally.

“We appear to be moving from a period of a deep and focused threat to one where the threat is less monolithic but wider.”

Mr Evans also warned about the astonishing scale of cyber attacks, “with industrial-scale processes involving many thousands of people lying behind both state-sponsored cyber espionage and organised cyber crime”.

One firm listed on the London Stock Exchange estimates it has lost some £800 million as a result of a hostile state-sponsored cyber attack, he said.

MI5 is also investigating potential attacks in more than a dozen other companies, as well as working with others who may be targets in the future.

He said: “So far, established terrorist groups have not posed a significant threat in this medium, but they are aware of the potential to use cyber vulnerabilities to attack critical infrastructure and I would expect them to gain more capability to do so in future.”

He urged company boards to consider the vulnerabilities of their own companies.

Mr Evans added that the economic crisis in the eurozone could also lead to the rise of political extremism, but noted that the British have been “stolidly unimpressed” by this in the past.

“I suspect that any problems we may have here will come from lone actors attracted to extremism and violence rather than an organised political movement,” he said.

But last year's attacks in Norway showed “how devastating a single individual can be if sufficiently determined and callous”, he said.

PA

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn