UK spy chief says MI5 stopped 31 terror plots in four years

The face of the Great Clock of the Elizabeth Tower, commonly referred to as Big Ben, is pictured at the Houses of Parliament in London, on Aug 17, 2017.

The UK foiled 31 “late-stage” terrorist plots in the past four years, the chief of the country’s domestic intelligence agency said.

MI5 chief Ken McCallum’s revelation emphasizes the scale of the problem still faced by security services as they seek to protect the British public two decades after the Sept 11, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington. 

The terrorist threat to the UK, I am sorry to say, is a real and enduring thing.

Ken McCallum, Director-general of MI5, UK

“We do face a consistent global struggle to defeat extremism and to guard against terrorism,” McCallum said. “The terrorist threat to the UK, I am sorry to say, is a real and enduring thing,” he told BBC Radio on Friday. 

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“While the recent plots have been “mainly Islamist extremist” there’s also been a “growing number of attack plots from extremist right wing terrorists.”  

McCallum also said also “there is no doubt that recent events in Afghanistan will have heartened and emboldened some of those extremists”. 

“Overnight you can have a psychological boost, a morale boost to extremists already here or in other countries, so we need to be vigilant,” he said. 

In the period since the pandemic began, there have been six late-stage plans, McCallum said. “The numbers of plots we disrupt nowadays are actually higher than the numbers of plots which were coming at us after 9/11, but on average, they are smaller plots of lower sophistication.”

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