Militants planning ‘mass-casualty attacks’ - MI5

There are warnings that the UK faces the same terror threat as France - and a plot to 'kill police officers'. Picture: Ian Rutherford

There are warnings that the UK faces the same terror threat as France - and a plot to 'kill police officers'. Picture: Ian Rutherford

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PRIME Minister David Cameron will today meet the security services amid warnings the UK faces the same terror threat as France and a plot “to kill police officers”.

MI5 has warned that militants in Syria are planning “mass-casualty attacks” against Western targets following on from the murder of 17 people in co-ordinated assaults on Paris last week.

Mr Cameron denied reports that Britain will raise its terror threat level to critical, meaning an attack is imminent.

Speaking yesterday after taking part in the rally on the streets of the French capital, Mr Cameron said a number of plots had been foiled in recent months. He said: “We’ve spent a lot of time in the past looking at how we would respond to this kind of marauding firearms attack by people who want to martyr themselves.

“In a free country, there’s never any way you can guarantee against an attack and the damage an attack can do. But what we do have in Britain is brilliant security and intelligence services, very strong counter-terrorism policing, and a way of co-ordinating the work that they do with special forces and others to make sure that when these things happen, we respond in the best way we possibly can.

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“Crucially in recent months, the brilliance of our intelligence services has prevented a number of plots, including to kill police officers.”

Mr Cameron said that the current terrorist threat level of severe – meaning an attack is “highly likely” – was “appropriate, given all the intelligence”.

He added: “To push it higher to the level of critical means that you have warning of the imminence of a particular attack, and we don’t have that intelligence today. So I think the threat level is set at the right level.”

His comments came as the UK’s most senior police officer said an imminent terror attack in Britain was unlikely. Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said an attack was possible but called for the public to remain calm.

He said: “I don’t think it’s likely but I think we all know it’s a possibility. The threat level is severe and so therefore that means a terrorist attack is possible.

“We do our best together with the security services to make sure the terrorists don’t succeed and that we keep people safe. To date, that’s broadly what we’ve been able to achieve.”

Britain’s threat level was raised from substantial to severe in August last year following the gains made by Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

The last time it was at critical was in June 2007 following failed terrorist attacks at Glasgow airport and in London.

Claims that the threat level may be raised again come amid fears that Islamist militants are planning a terrorist “spectacular” in the West.

MI5 head Andrew Parker said on Friday that a group of core 
al-Qaeda terrorists in Syria is planning “mass-casualty attacks”.

Aviation bomb plots and Mumbai-style shootings in crowded places are thought to be among plans being developed by the shadowy “Khorasan” cell, which has Britain among those in its sights.

Home Secretary Theresa May announced that security would be tightened at British ports and train stations after the French killings.

There have also been calls for the Prime Minister to revive the Communications Data Bill – branded a “snooper’s charter” by opponents – to grant security services more powers to monitor suspects’ communications.

Labour leader Ed Miliband said he would be “cautious and considered” – if he were to be prime minister after May’s election – about calls for more powers and more resources for security services to increase surveillance of suspects.

He said: “I think it’s right to take a step back and look at this.

“We’ve got to look at ‘Do our intelligence services have the tools they need?’ but equally ‘Do we have the proper oversight to guarantee the liberties of free citizens?’ because, after all, one of the things we want to protect most of all here is our freedoms.

“We should defend our freedoms and also make sure the security services have what’s necessary to make sure that we counter that threat and defend that freedom.”

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