Intelligence agencies thwart an average of eight terrorist attacks a year – amid worrying signs of an al Qaeda “resurgence”.
Ministers have warned the terror threat is on the rise again and is an “evolving and ongoing” challenge for MI5.
Around 75 percent of the security service’s time is now spent combating the Islamist threat as known terrorist groups, including IS, continue to “evolve and adapt”.
A total of 39 terrorist attacks have been foiled since the Manchester, London Bridge and Westminster attacks in 2017, the Home Office’s counter-terrorism strategy competition revealed yesterday.
The bombing of the Manchester Arena concert killed 22 people and eight died in the ramming and knife attack on a van on London Bridge.
Another five were killed when a car mowed down pedestrians outside the Palace of Westminster and a police officer was stabbed.
Since then there have been nine attacks, killing six people and injuring 20 others.
And the number of attempted terrorist attacks is expected to increase each yearthanks to “continued” threats from overseas.
Police officers were successful in repelling late-stage attacks targeting MPs, public events such as Pride and popular crowded places in London.
Still, an attack is considered “probable” at any time, as Westminster and public transport hubs are all at risk of being targeted.
Interior Secretary Suella Braverman said: “We now face a domestic terrorist threat that is less predictable and more difficult to detect and investigate.”
“There is an ongoing and evolving threat from Islamist terrorist groups abroad and an operating environment where technology continues to present both opportunities and threats to our counterterrorism efforts.”
Officials warned that threats are becoming increasingly difficult to investigate and stop as more so-called “lone wolves” operate outside of groups.
One example was the killing of Southend West MP Sir David Amess in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, in October 2021.
His 25-year-old killer was an Islamic State sympathizer who confessed to the murder, citing religious motives.
The July 7, 2005 suicide bombings in London that killed 52 people and the 2015 Paris attacks were controlled remotely by al-Qaeda and Isis.
But the masterminds were then forced underground and “substantially demoted” as the security services increased their surveillance and thwarted further terrorist attacks.
Lone perpetrators inspired by these terror groups are now considered the most likely threat to Britain – but are far more difficult to identify and disrupt.
Both al-Qaeda and ISIS have recently managed to set up small cells, and they are on the rise again.
Officials warn: “Al Qaeda remains a strong and resilient threat despite the loss of key leaders.”
They are exploiting the West’s withdrawal from Afghanistan by befriending the ruling Taliban leaders and using the country as a platform from which to launch offensive operations.
The report warns: “We anticipate that both Daesh (IS) and al-Qaeda will take advantage of reduced counter-terrorism pressures to bolster their ability to conduct complex, targeted attacks.”
Spin-off groups “now operate with relative freedom over a wider territory than ever before” and “become more powerful and deadly,” the report says. It warns that ISIS still has the “ability and intent” to cause mass attacks with fatalities.
The killing devices used by the terrorists have expanded to include vehicles and knives, which are easier to obtain, but explosives are still a big problem.
General Abdul Wahab el-Saadi of Iraq’s counterterrorism agency in Baghdad warned in June that Britain was likely the next target.
He said: “We have evidence that terrorists here are in contact with extremists in the UK and that they are plotting.”
Officials are also prepared for a wave of terrorists to be released from prison this year.
Around 41 examples were rented out over the year to March, with more to follow in the coming months.
You could need security monitoring for decades to come. Four of the nine declared terrorist attacks in the UK since 2018 have been carried out by prisoners on duty or recently released – including the 2020 stabbing of three men in Reading in a park, stabbings in Streatham, south London and the Fishmongers’ Hall attack in 2019 which two died.
It is well known that extremists have long used prisons to spread their ideologies and attract more inmates to their cause.
As of March this year, 232 people were in custody in the UK for terrorism-related offences.
AI helps intelligence agencies get the better of conspirators, but terrorists also use the technology to publicize their actions online, using encryption to hide them from security agencies.
Elsewhere, the report warns that Russia and China are trying to “foster divisive and polarizing narratives in the West” by exploiting right-wing terror.
Spy bosses are also monitoring the threat posed by the so-called incel movement, which targets young men who hate women, which could be labeled a future terror threat.
Officials revealed there is a link between poor mental health and those trying to cause harm.
Looking up twisted conspiracy theories could also be a gateway to terror, they said.