|Islamist terrorists execute a barbaric act of murderous savagery in Woolwich, southeast London, May 22, 2013|
MI5 chief Andrew Parker warns of threat to UK publicFrank Gardner | BBC security correspondentForgive us, but it's kind of a relief to see the word "terrorism" being used in a BBC article about threats to a society. As we have often noted here, the BBC uses the word rarely. When it does, the chances are they are describing the threat to Brits.
Thousands of Islamist extremists in the UK see the British public as a legitimate target for attacks, the director general of MI5 has warned. In his first speech since taking over in April, Andrew Parker gave an update on the dangers to British security. He named al-Qaeda and its affiliates in south Asia and the Arabian peninsula as presenting "the most direct and immediate threats to the UK". Mr Parker was addressing the Royal United Services Institute in Whitehall.
The head of the Security Service explained that "knowing of someone" was not the same as knowing everything about them.
He said that despite huge investment over the past decade, the reality was that MI5 focused the most intense intrusive attention on only a small number of cases at any one time.
In naming the biggest threats, he meant primarily al-Qaeda's elements in Pakistan and separately in Yemen, from where it has three times succeeded in smuggling explosives past security onto planes in the past four years.
Referring to the ongoing conflict in Syria, he said a growing proportion of MI5's casework concerned individuals from the UK who had travelled to fight there.
He said extremist Sunni groups in Syria were aspiring to attack Western countries.
It has long been a concern of Western governments that British-based jihadists will one day return from the killing fields of Syria and turn their new-found skills on the population back home.A number of people have been stopped at airports and some have been arrested on suspicion of terrorism.
Mr Parker said 330 people had been convicted of terrorism-related offences in Britain between 11 September 2001 and 31 March 2013. He added that in the first few months of this year, there had been four major trials related to terrorist plots.
Mr Parker, who has 30 years' experience in MI5, was previously deputy director general and before that director of its counter-terrorism division at the time of the London bombings in 2005.
To show how a less buttoned-up news channel hears what he said, this is from the Mirror newspaper's coverage of the same Parker speech today:
...Andrew Parker, who took charge in April, said the UK had been threatened by terror atrocities once or twice a year since 2000. He told a private audience at the Royal United Services Institute in London that in his view, this was "unlikely to change" for the moment [i.e. an attack or two per year]. One of the reasons he gave for this was the growing number of British citizens going to become jihadists in Syria. He warned that extremist Sunni groups in Syria wanted to attack Western countries. Hundreds of Britons are believed to be fighting on the side of militant Islamist groups in Syria. [Mirror]Wikipedia's list of terrorism attacks on the British makes for sobering reading.