THE murder of soldier Lee Rigby was an act of terrorism which shocked Britain. The 25-year-old’s death in broad daylight on a London street was almost too brutal to comprehend; his killers’ insouciance in its aftermath chilling.
But far from being a horrific one-off, we’re told many more such murders have been planned as terrorists shift their modus operandi away from huge “spectaculars” such as the 7 July, 2005 bombings or the 11 September, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center.
Yesterday West Midlands Police said it had issued a security alert to its staff following a threat to kidnap and murder a serving officer. The force said it had received an “anonymous but credible” tip-off, with officers urged to take extra precautions, including not wearing uniforms to and from work.
In October the threat level to police officers across Britain was raised to substantial, while the national security level remains at severe, meaning a terrorist attack is highly likely.
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Yesterday’s warning came after Police Scotland said it believed its officers to be at heightened risk of being targeted by a “lone wolf” terrorist. Speaking to The Scotsman’s sister publication, Scotland on Sunday, last month, Deputy Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said Police Scotland’s officers and staff had been briefed on a series of “protective measures”, including being careful about how they arrived for work and who they speak to while off duty.
Mr Livingstone said his force was monitoring an unspecified number of individuals as part of its counter-terrorism activities, but admitted that it had been unaware of Aberdeen-raised Abdul Raqib Amin until he appeared in a terrorist recruitment video, or of former Glasgow schoolgirl Aqsa Mahmood, who quit university to travel to Syria and marry a jihadist.
The truly worrying development for security services is that this emerging threat comes not from traditional terrorist cells, but potentially from those acting alone. Such “self-activating” individuals do not need to become battle-hardened by travelling to Iraq or Syria. Police say they can become a threat simply by watching propaganda videos on the internet or communicating with others using social media. These bedroom terrorists may have no criminal record or other history with the police.
It is increasingly difficult to assess the threat these individuals pose. About 500 Britons are estimated to have gone to Syria to fight with militant group Islamic State, with upwards of 30 believed to be from Scotland. But there will be many more who have not travelled but bear a grudge and are ready to follow the terrible precedent set by Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, Lee Rigby’s killers.
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