Sunday, 3 Mar 2024

School massacres and eight ‘late stage’ terrorist attacks thwarted

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School massacres and eight terror plots were foiled by counter-terror police in 2022, according to the Metropolitan Police. Several terror plots foiled at the eleventh hour in Britain last year were “close calls” which a senior counter-terror officer today described as “goal line saves” because would-be attackers had picked targets and were gathering weapons when officers intervened.

Matt Jukes, Head of Counter-Terror Policing at London’s Metropolitan Police, said the force is particularly concerned about young people getting involved in such plots.

He told LBC the Met has prevented youngsters from carrying out school massacres. Children as young as 13 are also being investigated.

Asked if social media is being used to indoctrinate youngsters, Mr Jukes replied: “It’s giving – sadly – young people a twisted inspiration.

“It’s giving them, on occasion, information, the ways to carry out terrorist attacks. We will work very hard with tech companies to remove that kind of content online.”

Mr Jukes added: “Sadly, as we know it creates an echo chamber so people’s ideas, those really wicked ideas, are bounced off each other and reinforced.

“So the online space is the biggest shift in our experience of countering the terrorist threat.”

He said: “It’s been very acute on its impact on young people in the last few years.”

The senior officer also said the number of investigations into hostile state threats being carried out by counter-terror police has quadrupled in the past two years.

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He described the workload as “unprecedented” and said it marked a really significant shift in focus for teams primarily working on terror probes.

Mr Jukes said missions outside of terrorism now account for around 20 percent of casework in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, to tackle state threats, espionage and probe war crimes.

While fighting terrorism is still the main focus, tackling hostile state activity was a growing part of work for counter-terror police due to the range of threats now faced in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Mr Jukes told reporters at Scotland Yard on Thursday.

He said: “We are shifting, in part, our focus from an exclusive attention to the terrorist threat to a really significant shift in focus on the threat from foreign states.

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“For counter-terrorism policing that means, at present, that around 20 percent of our casework is focused on missions outside terrorism.

“That means countering state threats, investigating war crimes and working with MI5 and other partners to address espionage.”

He said the number of investigations focused on state threats has “quadrupled in recent years”, adding this referred to dozens of cases over the last two years, not hundreds.

But he stressed how scores of officers could be working on hostile state threats because of the intensity of the investigations, adding the nature of the cases was palpably different from terror probes.

Last year the boss of MI5 laid bare the “very real threat” posted by hostile states and set out in stark language the dangers from Russia, China and Iran.

The security agency’s Director General, Ken McCallum, revealed in a speech in November there had been at least 10 potential plots since January last year by Iranian intelligence services to kidnap or kill British or “UK-based” people considered “enemies of the regime”.

That number now stands at 15, Mr Jukes said, adding: “We have had to respond to very real concerns about the potential threats projected from Iran against people based in the UK.”

Officers are also looking into reports of the alleged presence of so-called Chinese overseas police stations.

Mr Jukes said: “I want to be absolutely clear that any attempt to intimidate, to harass or to harm individuals who are UK nationals, or who have made the UK their home, won’t be tolerated.

“At present we’ve got no criminal evidence identified in the UK yet.

“Attempts to set up shop to act outside the conventions of international law enforcement are not acceptable, and they will be stopped. We’ve got the resources to do that.”

Meanwhile, police are continuing to gather evidence of potential war crimes to pass to the International Criminal Court.

Mr Jukes said so far 100 reports are being considered by officers from people across the UK about the war in Ukraine.

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