A worrying new face of the terror threat to the UK


Related Topics

Islamists had for a while been uploading video footage on the internet of prisoners being beheaded by their captors. It was most prevalent in Iraq and has spread to other parts of the world where ferocious jihad was being waged.

The murder outside Woolwich barracks was the first time that beheading had been used as a tool of terror in the West and it has, understandably, spread shock and revulsion. The appearance of footage of one of the suspects, with bloody meat cleavers in his hands, speaking calmly about what he has apparently done in an English accent, will add to the sense of foreboding.

This was also the first time that a soldier had been targeted back home by Islamists; although off-duty soldiers had been targeted by Irish republicans in the past. The Ministry of Defence now has a major problem on how to react to this in the raising of security measures which was already under way tonight. The questions being asked were ‘is there a danger of copycat attacks?’ And, at the same time, ‘What would be effect on the morale of service personnel and their families if they were forced to live under siege conditions?’

Kidnapping and killing, beheading in particular, of military personnel had, in fact, been a recurring theme among would-be Islamist terrorists in this country. Six years ago a group of British Pakistanis based in Birmingham were convicted of plotting such an attack and their leader, Parviz Khan, received a life sentence with the recommendation that he serves a minimum of 14 years.

But there appears to have been no indication for the security agencies that such an attempt was in the horizon, according to sources, leading to possibility that this was the work of a very small group, possibly just the two suspects who were shot by the police at the scene.

There was initial speculation that the attack may have been the result of ‘road rage’ following a car crash. However, counter-terrorist officers also appear to have information that the killers had staged an accident after waiting for an opportunity to present itself and were intent on finding a victim.

The behavior of the two men after the death, the video recording of their jihadist statements, the refusal to run away and then charge at the police – which could be taken as a desire to become ‘shaheeds’, or martyrs - all point away from this being a random, spur of the moment, incident.

The fact that the two men are alive after apparently being shot will be of huge help to piecing together what led up to the attack. According to security officials the behavior of the suspects in the aftermath of the killing suggested they were proud of what they had done, and, experience shows, that they may be only too happy to talk about their actions.

One official said : “We are not talking about your veteran PIRA (Provisional IRA) guy who during interrogation will not even make eye contact but stare at a fixed point on the wall either saying nothing or saying ‘no comment’. Some of the Islamists, especially those who want to be martyrs, want to describe what they had done, their motivations, and who motivated them. That’s why you get so many martyrdom videos which are of great help to investigators.”m

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron's 'compassionate conservatism' is now lying on its back  

Tory modernisation has failed under David Cameron

Michael Dugher
Russian President Vladimir Putin 'hits his foes where it hurts'  

Dominic Raab: If Western politicians’ vested interests protect Putin, take punishment out of their hands

Dominic Raab
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform