Britain revises security strategy to counter ‘step change’ in militant threat

Two women react during commemorations of the first anniversary of the attack on London Bridge, in London, Britain, June 3, 2017. REUTERS/Simon Dawson

LONDON – Britain will seek to counter what it calls a “step change” in the threat posed by militants with a revised counter-terrorism strategy published on Monday that looks to harness technology and build stronger ties with businesses.

The interior ministry warned on Sunday that the threat posed by Islamist militants to Britain is expected to remain high for the next two years and could even rise.

Recently-appointed interior minister Sajid Javid said the new strategy incorporated lessons from attacks in London and Manchester last year which killed 36 people, and would help Britain tackle an evolving threat.

“I see the very latest intelligence, and it’s very clear that there has been a step change in the threat from terrorism,” Javid will say in a speech at the launch of the revised strategy.

The launch will give Javid, who was appointed in April after the resignation of a close ally of Prime Minister Theresa May, a chance to stamp his own authority on Britain’s highly politicized security agenda. Some see Javid as a potential challenger to May.

The current threat level to Britain is assessed as severe, meaning an attack is highly likely. The government said it had foiled 25 Islamist militant plots since June 2013 – 12 of those since March 2017 – and was currently handling over 500 live operations.

While Islamist militants pose the biggest threat, the risks from far-right extremism are also growing, he will say.

“Daesh (Islamic State) and the extreme right wing are more similar than they might like to think. They both exploit grievances, distort the truth, and undermine the values that hold us together.”

A review found existing counter-terrorism policy was well-organized and comprehensive, but suggested ways it could be improved to cope with militant groups’ changing tactics.

The strategy will target better information-sharing, including with businesses, to speed up flagging of suspicious purchases, improve security at crowded places, and reduce the vulnerability of infrastructure.

It will also look to tap private sector and academic expertise to harness data analytics and machine learning to improve detection.