LONDON (AP) — Britain has seen a credible terrorist attack plot about once a year since the Sept.11 attacks — a worrying pattern as security officials brace for an array of threats ahead of next month’s summer Olympics, the head of the country’s domestic spy agency says.
Although Britain’s threat level is a notch below what it has been for much of the past decade, it is still at substantial. The level means an attack is a strong possibility,
“Our assessment is that Britain has experienced a credible terrorist attack plot about once a year since 9/11,” MI5′s Director General Jonathan Evans said in prepared remarks ahead of a rare public speech Monday to the Lord Mayor’s annual defense and security lecture in London.
“The (Olympic) games present an attractive target for our enemies and they will be at the center of the world’s attention in a month or so,” he said. “But the games are not an easy target, and the fact that we have disrupted multiple terrorist plots here and abroad in recent years demonstrates that the UK as a whole is not an easy target for terrorism.”
Not so long ago, 75 percent of the terror threats prioritized by MI5 had links to Afghanistan or Pakistan. But Britain’s efforts, along with those of its international partners, has brought that percentage down to below 50 percent, Evans said.
“You could say that we are near to reaching a form of stalemate,” said Evans. “They haven’t stopped trying but we have got better at stopping them.”
But the terrorist threat is also widening to include al-Qaida affiliates in Mali, Yemen, Somalia and parts of the Middle East, he noted.
Although the Arab Spring revolutions have brought about radical political changes in some countries, they have also brought fresh opportunities for al-Qaida affiliates to seek refuge.
“Some are heading home to the Arab world again,” Evans said. “And a small number of British would-be jihadis are also making their way to Arab countries to seek training and opportunities for militant activity, as they do in Somalia and Yemen. Some will return to the UK and pose a threat here. This is a new and worrying development.”
MI5 has grown since the 2001 terror attacks in the United States, going from 1,800 to 3,800 staff — some of whom joined after Britain’s own homegrown suicide bombings that killed 52 people in 2005.
Since then, several international terror plots have been hatched in the United Kingdom, including the 2006 trans-Atlantic airliner plot to down several planes using liquid explosives. A handful of terror trials are also underway.
Evans stressed that other countries, such as Iran, shouldn’t be underestimated in the evolving terror threat landscape.
“We have seen in recent months a series of attempted terrorist plots against Israeli interests in India, Azerbaijan and elsewhere,” he said. “So a return to state-sponsored terrorism by Iran or its associates, such as Hezbollah, cannot be ruled out as pressure on the Iranian leadership increases.”
And the threat of cyber security has recently become more prominent, he said.
In one recent case, a major London-listed company incurred revenue losses of 800 million pounds ($1.2 billion) because of a cyber attack, Evans said. He did not elaborate on the company’s name or what country was behind the attack.
“What is at stake is not just our government secrets but also the safety and security of our infrastructure, the intellectual property that underpins our future prosperity and the commercially sensitive information that is the lifeblood of our companies and corporations,” he said.
Evans has been in charge of MI5 since 2007.
More Related Stories
- 51 killed in massive Oklahoma tornado
- Don't cry climate-change wolf
- Record tornado devastates Oklahoma
- Limbaugh: No one willing to impeach the first black president
- Tornado reduces Oklahoma City suburb to rubble
- AP: Toll at least 37 dead in Okla. tornado
- Entire Midwest on tornado warning
- Oregon senator proposes appeal to Monsanto Protection Act
- Supreme Court to rule on prayer at government meetings
- Beltway scandal machine breaks, knows nothing about America
- Gitmo hunger striker launches Twitter campaign
- "Hero" cop, honored by Obama, accused of double rape
- Father of gay high school student arrested for dating classmate speaks out
- Pentagon adviser pushed Anthrax drug, which his firm produced
- Conservatives A-OK with closeted Boy Scouts
- The new geography of poverty
- Promotion for NYPD cop who cost city $1.5m in settlements
- Obama to all-male university graduates: Be the best husband to "your boyfriend or partner"
- The truth in Kanye's anti-prison rap
- GOP attorney general candidate tried to force women to report miscarriages to police
- Chinese hackers resume attacks against U.S.
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11