Britain faces an “unprecedented” terror threat that will not subside until the Syrian civil war ends, the head of foreign intelligence service MI6 said Thursday, according to AFP.
In a rare speech for an intelligence chief, Alex Younger said British authorities had foiled 12 terrorist plots since June 2013 and warned that the “murderously efficient” Islamic State (ISIS) group was still plotting attacks from Syria, despite recent military reverses.
“The plight of the Syrians continues to worsen. I cannot say with any certainty what the next year will bring,” Younger told journalists in his first public comments since taking up the post of “C” in 2014.
“But what I do know is this — we cannot be safe from the threats that emanate from that land unless the civil war is brought to an end,” he added.
“We need to take the fight to the enemy, penetrating terrorist organizations upstream,” Younger continued. “By that I mean as close to the source as possible.”
The comments come less than a week after Europol warned that ISIS is planning new terror attacks on Europe in the coming weeks.
According to the agency, countries fighting ISIS in Syria and Iraq, including Belgium and France, are at the greatest risk of experiencing terror attacks. The new attacks may include car bombs, as well as chemical and/or biological weapons, and may include more complex attacks as well.
That warning was the second one in recent months, as Europol warned in a report in January that that ISIS was planning more attacks on soft targets in the EU.
Younger on Thursday criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin for propping up Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and warned that “hybrid warfare”, incorporating cyber-attacks and propaganda, was an “increasingly dangerous phenomenon” that posed a “fundamental threat” to Western democracies.
“The connectivity that is at the heart of globalization can be exploited by states with hostile intent to further their aims deniably,” he said.
Younger played down fears of instability in the wake of Brexit and the election of Donald Trump in the United States, saying he expected “continuity” in Britain’s intelligence relationships with the European Union and the United States.
“These relationships are long-lasting and the personal bonds between us are strong,” he said.
Countries in Europe have been under the threat of radicalization – citizens of those countries who join jihadists in Syria and Iraq, and then return to their home countries to carry out terrorist attacks there.