MI5 Chief Says Six Terror Plots Foiled During Pandemic — But UK Attack ‘Likely’ Since Taliban Win
13:37 GMT 10.09.2021 (Updated: 15:24 GMT 28.05.2023)
© WANA NEWS AGENCYMembers of the Taliban Intelligence Special Forces guard the military airfield in Kabul
© WANA NEWS AGENCY
The UK's chief spy-catcher has warned a terror attack on British soil will likely happen "on my watch" after the Taliban's* return to power in Afghanistan.
MI5 Director General Ken McCallum said on Friday that his counter-intelligence agency and police forces had disrupted 31 "late-stage" terrorist plots in the last four years, six of those during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But he cautioned that the Taliban's rapid sweep across the country following the withdrawal of US-led coalition troops, including British forces, had "heartened and emboldened" Islamic extremists.
McCallum said the MI5, in conjunction with the police, foreign intelligence service MI6, government listening post GCHQ, and allied nations had reduced the ability of terrorists to carry out "spectacular" attacks like 9/11, the July 7 London bombings, the November 2015 Paris attacks on the Bataclan theatre and other sites, and the 2016 Nice truck attack.
But he warned that the "broad success" of those atrocities had prompted "inspirational terrorism" with groups like Daesh* recruiting lone extremists or small groups for ad-hoc attacks.
"The numbers of plots that we disrupt nowadays are actually higher than the numbers of plots which were coming at us after 9/11," McCallum said. "But on average they are smaller plots of lower sophistication."
10 September 2021, 10:36 GMT
The 2017 general election campaign saw two separate vehicle ramming and stabbing assaults — one on the Houses of Parliament that left 6 people dead, including the attacker, and one on London Bridge and nearby Borough Market in which eight late-night revelers and all three terrorists were killed.
London Bridge was also the scene of the 2019 knife attack by the recently-released terror offence convict Usman Khan, in which he and two victims died.
The counter-terror chief was not optimistic that there would be no repeat of those incidents.
"It would be reckless of anyone in a job like mine ever to claim that we would be able to provide 100 per cent security,” said McCallum. "We never can. Of course there are likely to be terrorist attacks on UK soil on my watch.”
* The Taliban and Daesh are banned as terrorist organisations in a number of countries, including Russia.