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Number of potential terrorists on MI5 watchlist has doubled

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Two women lay flowers at the scene of Reading stabbings

Two women lay flowers at the scene of Reading stabbings

Two women lay flowers at the scene of Reading stabbings

The number of terror suspects on the United Kingdom's security agency's watchlist has risen to 43,000, more than double the figure from the previous year.

MI5 has admitted Khairi Saadallah, accused of stabbing to death three people in a park in Reading, Berkshire, on Saturday, was briefly under investigation but that the case file was closed after two months.

Whitehall sources said the information passed to intelligence officers was "not credible enough" to warrant a full investigation into an allegation that Saadallah (25) had been planning to travel to Libya, his home country, to fight with extremist groups.

Mark Rowley, the former chief of counter-terrorism policing, said police and security services faced a "wicked problem" deciding which of the 43,000 people on MI5's radar could launch a terror attack.

A Home Office document, unnoticed when published in March at the height of Covid-19, said 3,000 terror suspects were "subjects of interest" but 40,000 more had been placed on a second list because their level of threat was not judged to be sufficient.

The report stated: "A substantial element of the increase to over 40,000 is the inclusion of individuals who have never travelled to the UK but whose details have been passed to MI5 by foreign intelligence services, in order that MI5 be alerted should they enter the UK."

Richard Walton, former head of the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command, said: "The bigger question is why are there 40,000 people who think it is acceptable to consider murdering people. It tells you the scale of the problem."

Britain's Home Secretary Priti Patel promised new laws to remove foreign criminals from Britain, declaring anyone who "abuses our hospitality" would be deported.

She said she would accelerate legislation on foreign offenders by making it easier to remove them, following the terror attack in Reading.

She told MPs: "The Government's position is if you abuse our hospitality and commit crimes in the UK, we will do everything in our power to remove you."

New legislation will make it easier to deport those convicted of minor offences. At present, only those guilty of offences that warrant more than a 12-month prison sentence face automatic deportation.

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