LONDON • British security services have foiled around seven terror attacks since June, with fighters returning from Syria posing a growing threat, Prime Minister David Cameron said yesterday.
"Our security and intelligence services have stopped something like seven attacks in the last six months, albeit attacks planned on a smaller scale" than last Friday's attacks in Paris, he told BBC Radio 4 from Turkey. "We have been aware of these cells operating in Syria that are radicalising people in our own countries, potentially sending people back to carry out attacks," he added. "It was the sort of thing we were warned about."
Mr Cameron also said there were "hopeful signs" from last Saturday's talks in Vienna on Syria that progress was being made on how to deal with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
"You can't deal with (the) so-called Islamic State unless you get a political settlement in Syria that enables you then to permanently degrade and destroy that organisation," he said.
The British government has decided to boost its security services with an extra 1,900 intelligence officers as it adapts to the prospect of a long fight against terrorism following the downing of a Russian passenger jet and the Paris killings.
Britain's intelligence agencies now employ about 12,700 staff, split between MI5, which handles domestic security; MI6, responsible for overseas intelligence; and GCHQ, the communications monitoring service.
"I am determined to prioritise the resources we need to combat the terrorist threat because protecting the British people is my
No. 1 duty as Prime Minister," The Guardian newspaper quoted Mr Cameron as saying when announcing the boost in security personnel. "This is a generational struggle that demands we provide more manpower to combat those who would destroy us and our values."
The British leader has also ordered a rapid review of security at several airports around the world, in particular in the Middle East and North Africa, and airports through which large numbers of British citizens travel. The assessments, due to be conducted over the next two months, will focus on measures such as passenger screening, physical security at the airport, hold baggage and freight screening.
Additional security measures put in place at potentially vulnerable airports over the past year will also be reviewed, and the National Security Council will today discuss British aviation security policy, the government said. Mr Cameron said he planned to more than double government spending on aviation security, currently around £9 million (S$19.5 million) a year, over the next five years.
This new funding will provide extra aviation security experts to regularly assess security at airports around the world as well as advice, training and equipment for other countries to help them increase security at airports. It will also fund research into screening technology and to detect new threats, the government said.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, BLOOMBERG