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Threat in UK greater than six years ago, says terror law watchdog

Britain’s terror laws watchdog has warned that the country faces a greater threat now than when he took the post six years ago.

David Anderson QC said a sense of being “over the worst” when he started in 2011 had been a “false dawn”.

In an interview with the Press Association, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation said there is now a “wider range” of dangers.

“What we see now is not more people being killed in this country – we’ve been both lucky and skilful in that regard over the last 10 years,” he said.

“We are seeing far more experienced terrorist fighters from this country in Syria than we ever saw in Afghanistan or east Africa or other theatres of war.

“And we are seeing a realisation on the part of the terrorists that they don’t need sophisticated explosives plots to take great numbers of lives.

“People using automatic weapons, heavy goods vehicles, even knives, machetes, and securing all the publicity they could possibly want from deploying relatively simple weapons such as that.”

The potential return of jihadists after fighting alongside Daesh has emerged as a challenge for security agencies in recent years.

Around 850 UK-linked individuals of “national security concern” have travelled to join the Syrian conflict, with just under half thought to have come back.

“We’ve seen a lot of people return already from Syria, about a quarter of them have been prosecuted, and only a few have engaged in terrorist activity of any kind in this country, so far as we know,” said Mr Anderson.

“But we have to remember that the people who have returned already were not necessarily the most committed fighters and that hundreds of Britons remain in that theatre.

“When ISIS is defeated and loses its territory, as I’m sure at some stage will happen, they will be looking for somewhere else to go – whether that’s back to their home countries or elsewhere in the world.”

Mr Anderson, who is set to leave his role next month, described strong intelligence as the key to avoiding terrorism.

“We have probably the best intelligence agencies in Europe,” he said. “We also have excellent co-operation on the whole between intelligence agencies and police.

“It’s more difficult in this country to obtain firearms than it is on the continent of Europe. But there’s no inevitability about this. We’ve developed some excellent skills in the fight against terrorism but we need a bit of luck as well.”

Picture: File photo dated 12/11/2013 of David Anderson QC, the independent reviewer of terror legislation. Britain’s terror laws watchdog has warned that the country faces a greater threat now than when he took the post six years ago. (PA Images).