Half of the major terrorist plots uncovered over the last two years have involved firearms, as jihadists plan a Paris-style attack on the streets of Britain, counter-terrorism officials have said.
Admitting that 800 legally owned guns have gone missing, the National Crime Agency and Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism command have issued a rare joint appeal to members of the public to report any concerns they may have over gun security, as well as criminals accessing firearms.
Concerned by an apparent surge in gun-related crimes in London and other major cities, officials are particularly concerned that the firearms may fall into the hands of terrorists, The Guardian has reported.
Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, head of counter-terrorism for the police, said: “We know that firearms can enter the criminal market through a variety of means, including thefts from legitimate holders or dealers. Law enforcement, together with security and intelligence services, are working tirelessly to locate these weapons, confront the terrorist threat and keep the public safe.”
Of ten plots intercepted in the last two years, five had involved jihadists trying to get hold of guns to enact a Paris-style massacre in the UK, he said.
On the 13th of November last year, 130 people were killed in the French capital after ten armed jihadists opened fire on restaurants and night spots, including 89 people killed by just three gunmen in the Bataclan nightclub.
But gun crime is on the rise. In July and August, the Met Police recorded 202 firearms discharges in London, more than double the 87 recorded in the same two months last year. The weapons are thought to be coming from Eastern Europe by various methods. Rowley said that terrorists were most likely to get hold of guns from criminals in communities they know.
Law enforcement officers seized at least 884 firearms last year, including Czech-made Skorpion submachine pistols, Uzis, and Mac-10 weapons.
The NCA director general, Lynne Owens, said: “Currently we believe we hold an advantage. There is low availability of illegal firearms in the UK compared with European and international partners, but it is not an advantage that we take for granted, and to maintain that advantage we must not stand still.
“Suppressing the availability of illegal firearms in the UK has never been a more significant priority for the law enforcement community. Criminal networks, who think nothing about who they sell firearms to, present a significant route by which extremist groups will try to access the sort of weapons used in recent attacks in Europe.”