The chief of Britain’s counter terror unit has warned of the rising threat of an attack on UK soil sparked by the conflict in the Middle East.
Head of counter terror policing Matt Jukes issued the warning as he said the world was facing “a moment of radicalisation”.
He described a picture where the world is as “dangerous and unstable” as it has been in his three years at the helm. He warned that the main threat was from a “low sophistication, lone actor” attempting a terror attack.
He gave an update on the terror threat during a review of the counter terror unit’s operation during 2023. The terror chief said that since the “terrible” attack by Hamas on Israel there had been a “spike” in radical activity which could lead to terror attacks.
He said: “Clearly that has been the focus in our work in recent months.
“These global events are extraordinary we have supported out colleagues most notably in London (where there have been protest marches). This is a radicalisation moment”.
The commander said that there had been 33 arrests in connection with potential terror offences since Israel was attacked by Hamas on October 7 last year. Seven of those have been charged.
Nineteen of the arrests were in connection with protest marches while 13 were for activity on social media.
Meanwhile he said there had been 700 complaints about social media posts regarding the conflict which could be in breach of UK laws. That is a seven fold increase compared from the three months from October last year.
Assistant Commissioner Jukes said that social media could be “a dark and dangerous place” and that as many as 20 per cent of complaints were against children.
“We have seen children 11 or 12 years old involved in some worry conversations," the head of counter terror said.
He added on the rise in potential terror activity: “It’s a spike which is higher and more sustained than ever before. The picture is of those already drawn to propaganda or others who have perhaps unknowingly stepped over the boundaries.”
The UK threat level remains at “substantial”, the terror chief said.
However he said the “needles the dashboard” were going on the around direction as international tension ramped up over the conflict in the Middle East.”
On the biggest threat to the UK he said: “The events are having their echoes in the UK
“We are most worried about a low sophisticated lone actor (carrying out a terror attack).”
Meanwhile he said that “hostile state actors” working in cahoots with organised crime groups who could carry out operations.
He said countries like Iran were potentially “using criminal proxies on their behalf” so that they could later deny any state involvement.
He also pointed to China and Russia as part of a “triple threat” to the UK.
The commander said that upcoming elections in the UK and US were potential targets for interference from foreign governments.
“There is a huge anoint of disinformation online. The volume is that activity is greater than it has been in any other election year.
On Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir he said: “A line has been drawn in the sand they will be treated as a proscribed terror organisation. “