MI5 chief says Britain facing new wave of terror attacks
BRITAIN is facing a wave of terrorist attacks on two fronts from a new generation of al-Qa'ida extremists and rogue IRA elements, the head of MI5 has warned.
In his first public speech on the security threat for three years, Jonathan Evans said yesterday that his officers were engaged in an "intense struggle" against Muslim radicals and IRA splinter groups.
It was only "a matter of time" before Britain was the victim of an attack from extremists based in Somalia, the director-general of the security service warned.
There had been a "persistent rise in terrorist activity and ambition" in Northern Ireland over the past three years, Mr Evans said.
He used his speech to issue a plea to the government not to abandon control orders, the controversial measure under which terrorist suspects are electronically tagged and put under house arrest.
There are currently nine suspects who are subject to the orders. The Liberal Democrats had promised to scrap the measure and it is now being considered under a wider review of counter-terrorism legislation.
Mr Evans said it was "a sad fact that for all sorts of good reasons terrorist threats can still exist which the criminal justice system cannot reach.
"The government cannot absolve itself of the responsibility to protect its citizens just because the criminal law cannot, in the particular circumstances, serve the purpose."
He told the Worshipful Company of Security Professionals in London that every day hundreds of officers were fighting an "intense struggle" to identify and investigate terrorists.
At any one time, MI5 had a "handful" of investigations that involved the "real possibility of an attack being planned against the UK", he said, adding, "most turn out to be the real thing".
The percentage of "priority" plots linked to al-Qa'ida in the tribal areas of Pakistan had dropped from 75pc two years ago to 50pc now. The threat had increased from Somalia and Yemen. Mr Evans added that a "significant number" of British residents were training in camps run by the al-Qa'ida-linked group al-Shabaab.
In Northern Ireland, there were now thought to be about 600 hardline republicans involved in terrorist activity, around half the number during the peak of IRA activity in the 1980s.
Mr Evans warned that the idea that every attack was preventable was a "nonsensical way to consider terrorist risk". (©Daily Telegraph London)