Christmas shoppers warned to be ‘more vigilant’ as terrorists may be ‘emboldened’ by recent attacks

Attacks can ‘embolden other extremists’ says counterterrorism police chief

Lizzie Dearden
Home affairs and security correspondent
Wednesday 17 November 2021 22:08
<p>Shoppers are being warned to be vigilant </p>

Shoppers are being warned to be vigilant

Christmas shoppers and revellers must be “more vigilant”, the head of UK Counter Terrorism Policing has warned, as terrorists may be “emboldened” by two recent attacks in the UK within a month.

Assistant commissioner Matt Jukes issued the alert on Wednesday night, 48 hours after the national threat level was raised to “severe”.

“We have now seen two terror incidents take place on our streets in the last four weeks, and recent experience tells us that this can embolden other extremists to plan and carry out their own attacks,” he said.

“Just as we enter the first busy festive period since the start of the pandemic, the terror threat level has been raised to severe, meaning an attack is highly likely.

“I know that will concern people, but [counterterrorism] policing are stepping up our activity to protect the UK. It also means that we need the public to do the same – by being more vigilant and trusting us with their concerns.”

The Independent understands that the Liverpool Women’s Hospital bomber, Emad al-Swealmeen, was not previously known to MI5 or counterterrorism police.

Further details of the planning of the killing of Sir David Amess will be heard at the forthcoming trial of the MP’s alleged murderer.

The fact that the two attacks took place in relatively quick succession caused the national terror threat level to be raised on Monday, after the UK had gone 16 months without a confirmed attack.

The Liverpool bombing was the 14th terror attack since March 2017, and security services say they have foiled 31 jihadi and neo-Nazi plots during this period.

Mr Jukes said counterterrorism police had received around 10,000 reports from the public about suspected terrorist activity in a year, a fifth of which had provided “useful intelligence” that had helped with investigations.

“Attacks can take many forms, as can suspicious behaviour. If someone’s behaviour seems out of place, trust your instincts and tell us,” he added. “You will not be ignored, and you can make a real difference.”

Police have not yet confirmed the motivation of the Liverpool attack, which took place shortly before 11am on Remembrance Sunday.

Assistant chief constable Russ Jackson, the head of Counter Terrorism Policing North West, said investigators believed that al-Swealmeen had been preparing for the bombing for at least seven months.

The asylum seeker, who had been in a long-running battle with the Home Office over his immigration status, was not known to be a threat.

Al-Swealmeen, who changed his name to Enzo Almeni after arriving in the UK around seven years ago, had converted to Christianity in 2015 but lost contact with worshippers at Liverpool Cathedral in 2018.

The City of Liverpool College confirmed to The Independent that Al-Swealmeen had undertaken a cake-decorating course between 2018 and summer 2019.

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