British police have foiled several terror attacks and arrested hundreds of suspects so far this year, a counter-terror chief has said.
Mark Rowley, one of Britain’s most senior anti-terror officers, has said that police are dealing with an “exceptionally high” number of cases and have also been contacted by “dozens” of families concerned that close relatives may be planning to flee to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS.
The Telegraph reports that Rowley added that police have been taking down more than 1,000 pieces of extremist material from the internet each week, including videos and pictures of beheadings, torture and suicide bombings.
Describing the current situation, Rowley said: “So far this year we have made 218 arrests and are running exceptionally high numbers of counter-terrorism investigations, the likes of which we have not seen for several years.
“Against an increasing operational tempo we are disrupting several attack plots a year. These plots are of varied sophistication, from individuals planning to carry out spontaneous yet deadly attacks to more complex conspiracies, almost all seemingly are either directed by or inspired by terrorism overseas.”
He added that a total of 16 people have so far been charged with terror offences after returning from jihad in Syria, and that 66 families have come forward to say they feared one of their loved ones was about to travel to the war torn country.
“Dozens of families have contacted us concerned about loved ones or information when they believe someone is travelling abroad. It is only through courageous action like that that we can help and we have been supporting such families in every way we can,” the counter-terror chief said.
He also said that police activity had to step-up in response to these new threats: “The volume range and pace of counter-terrorism activity has undergone a step-change. Public safety is our number one priority and we will always focus our disruption activity against those posing the greatest and most imminent threat.
“Sometimes this means intervening very early – essential to prevent attacks, but presenting enormous challenges in securing sufficient evidence to charge.
“Protecting and safeguarding vulnerable people in the UK from being drawn into the threat emanating from the Syrian and other conflicts overseas continues to be a high priority area for CT policing.”
Mr Rowley added that social media was proving increasingly problematic in radicalising impressionable young people, possible persuading them to carry out an attack on British soil.
“The growing problem of young, impressionable, and in some cases vulnerable, individuals being radicalised on-line is an increasing risk. Extremist groups are using social media in highly sophisticated ways in order to recruit or persuade individuals towards their violent and warped ideologies,” he said.