Theresa May will today warn that a Jihadi attack on the UK is “inevitable” as fanatics who have been “militarised” by Islamic State return from Iraq and Syria.
According to the Daily Mail, the attacks could range from a “lone wolf” beheading in a crowded shopping centre to a fertiliser bomb. With that in mind, farmers have been told to lock up their supplies of the potential explosive to foil would-be bombers.
One Whitehall official has spoken out, saying: “It is almost inevitable that something is going to happen in the next few months.”
With shopping malls and town centres entering their busiest time ahead of Christmas and the sales, any attack would have maximum impact and shock factor.
The Home Secretary is set to unveil new laws in a speech at the Royal United Services Institute where she will be joined by assistant commissioner Mark Rowley, the Metropolitan Police’s most senior counter terrorism officer.
Mr Rowley is expected to say that radicalised Muslims “are no longer a problem solely stemming from countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, far away in the minds of the public. Now, they are home-grown, in our communities; radicalised by images and messages they read on social media and prepared to kill for their cause.”
The Head of London’s Metropolitan Police, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, told the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme yesterday that there was “growing concern” about the risk of a “lone wolf” attack on Britain’s streets.
He said the challenges that police and the security series had in monitoring potential extremists, particularly those returning from fighting with IS, were huge.
“They’re going to be militarised, they will have a complex web of people that they know, and of course they will have learnt tactics that they may want to use here,” he said.
Mrs May reiterated the bleak outlook of the Met Chief, saying that the threats faced by Britain are “more diverse” because of the number of groups who are looking to carry out attacks against the West.
“There was a time when people were looking at perhaps just Al Qaeda-related threats that were a long time in the planning,” she will say.
“Not everybody’s affiliated to a particular group – some are self-starting groups and you do have individuals, perhaps the ‘lone wolves’ or the volatile individuals,” echoing the fears that there could be another attack carried out in public.
Referring to the brutal murder of soldier Lee Rigby, who was killed by two Muslim converts as he walked back to his barracks in Woolwich, Sir Bernard warned that a similar attack “doesn’t take an awful lot of organising”.
“There’s no great complexity to it” he said, “So that means we have got a very short time to actually intervene.”
And in news which could further the rift in the Home Office between the Conservatives and the Lib Dems, a report by Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee will say MI5 was in the dark about clues on social media which could have alerted them to the dangers faced by the fanatical murderers of Drummer Rigby.
While the report will stop short of saying MI5 could have prevented the attack on the day, it will inevitably add fuel to the flames over the ‘snoopers’ charter’ which Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has insisted does not make internet companies log every detail of a person’s browsing history including their social media usage.
But the new bill, which will be presented to MPs tomorrow, does extend the government’s ability to monitor private citizens, including powers to forbid airlines from landing in the UK if they do not provide advanced passenger lists and ban fanatics returning from Syria to enter the UK for up to two years.
In addition, border guards would be allowed to seize the passports of suspected jihadis. More liberal arguments against these proposals, including the new UKIP MPs who will face pressure from the libertarian faction in the party, are likely to be drowned out as the fear of more terror attacks hangs in the air.