Election over but UK still faces jihadist threat

Britain is facing an unprecedented jihadist threat requiring security officers to innovate.

Watch mode. British Prime Minister Theresa May stands outside 10 Downing Street in London, on June 9. (AP)

2017/06/11 Issue: 110 Page: 1

The Arab Weekly
Mahmud el-Shafey

London- A cloud of uncertainty hangs over the United Kingdom after tight elections returned Con­servative Party leader Theresa May to power, although without an overall parliamentary majority.

Britons voted June 8 amid tight­ened security just five days after three terrorists attacked in central London, running down pedestri­ans on London Bridge before in­discriminately stabbing revellers in Borough Market. Eight people were killed.

The election campaign was dom­inated by security and counterter­rorism issues. Parties suspend­ed national campaigning twice following the Manchester and London attacks. Reports that many of the attackers, including 22-year-old Manchester Arena bomber Sal­man Abedi, were known to police raised questions about Britain’s counterterrorism policies.

Officials raised the terror threat in the UK to “critical” after the May 22 Manchester bombing, which killed 23, meaning that soldiers were deployed on the streets and an attack was imminent. The threat level was reduced to “severe” — an attack was “highly likely” — a few days later.

May, the prime minister, said that “enough is enough” following the London attack, pledging to clamp down on Islamist extremism. A few days later, the former home secre­tary said she would be prepared to rip-up human rights laws that im­peded more robust terror legisla­tion.

It was a pledge she returned to after announcing her intention to form a government with the help of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party. However, with a narrow parliamentary majority, a resurgent opposition Labour Party and criticism from her own back­benchers, many questioned how May intends to push through her legislative agenda and how long she can remain at the head of a Con­servative Party that is notorious for ridding itself of weak leaders.

Britain is facing an unprecedent­ed jihadist threat, senior police of­ficers acknowledged, requiring understaffed police and security of­ficers to innovate.

“In nine weeks, we’ve had five plots foiled and three successful at­tacks. This is completely different to anything we have seen for a long time,” London Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Row­ley said after the London attacks.

A report by Britain’s Times news­paper stated that intelligence au­thorities have identified 23,000 jihadist extremists in Britain as po­tential terrorists. About 3,000 were considered direct threats and are either under investigation or being actively monitored. The remaining 20,000 have featured in previous inquiries and are categorised a “re­sidual risk” but not actively moni­tored.

Mahmud el-Shafey is an Arab Weekly correspondent in London.

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