Terror attack in UK matter of 'when, not if', says top cop

  • Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times, London
  • Updated: Jul 31, 2016 19:39 IST
British home secretary Amber Rudd speaks with Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe (right). (AFP)

A terror attack on UK was a question of when, not if, the country’s top cop said on Sunday while detailing several steps taken to deal with a situation similar to the attacks in Paris in November 2015.

Britain has been under a terror threat level of “severe” for some years, which means an attack is “highly likely.” The last terror attack in the country was in May 2013, when Lee Rigby, a fusilier in the British army, was murdered in Woolwich, south-east London.

After every terror attack in Europe, there was a “greater sense of fear” that Britain will be the next victim, Scotland Yard chief Bernard Hogan-Howe said.

People wanted him to give reassurance, he said adding he could not “do that entirely.”

“I realise that some of what I am telling you today is not reassuring. I hope that some of it is more so,” he said in a statement.

“The threat we all face is very real, no one watching events in Europe can think otherwise, but it is important that we have a shared understanding of the work that goes on every day to stop attacks happening and to prepare for the time when we are faced with this terrifying threat”.

Hogan-Howe listed the counter-terror mechanism, including the relationship between MI5, MI6 and the police, which he described as “world-beater”. Gun controls and the fact that Britain is an island mean terrorists would struggle to get the firearms required to repeat attacks similar to those in Europe.

“This gives a solid base as it means the UK environment is immediately hostile to the terrorist. I would also add to this the British way of life and culture…Our approach to Muslims is no different because these attacks purport to be committed in the name of Islam. We don't stigmatise the millions of British Muslims whose values and faith completely reject the terrorists' litany of hate,” he said.

“But even with this solid foundation to prevent attack, I have renewed our focus on what we will do when terrorists breach these defences. Within hours of the terrible events in Paris last November, I recognised that the attack we had witnessed just 200 miles from London required a huge response,” Hogan-Howe added.

 Britain has increased the number of specially trained and equipped officers to confront heavily armed terrorists, and is also training hundreds of extra officers to supplement numbers during an attack similar to that in Paris.

“For the first time our team of Counter Terrorism Specialist Firearms Officers who train for the very highest attack risk are ready 24 hours a day. They have the rope, marine and other advanced skills needed to tackle the toughest of challenges”, Hogan-Howe added.

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