Seven UK terror attacks 'stopped' in last six months: Cameron

LONDON (AFP) - 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 on Monday (Nov 16).

“Our security and intelligence services have stopped something like seven attacks in the last six months, albeit attacks planned on a smaller scale” than 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 Saturday’s talks in Vienna on Syria that progress was being made on how to deal with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).  

“You can’t deal with 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.

Britain is to recruit an extra 1,900 security and intelligence staff to counter the threat of terrorist violence following the Paris attacks, which killed at least 129 people, British media reported on Monday.

It would be “the biggest increase in British security spending since the 7/7 bombings in London” that killed dozens in 2005. The measures will be announced by Mr Cameron later on Monday, according to the Guardian.

“I am determined to prioritise the resources we need to combat the terrorist threat because protecting the British people is my number one duty as prime minister,” Mr Cameron will say, according to the newspaper.  

“This is a generational struggle that demands we provide more manpower to combat those who would destroy us and our values.”

The recruitment would increase the staff of intelligence agencies MI5, MI6 and GCHQ by some 15 per cent, according to the Guardian and the Financial Times.  

In addition, extra aviation security officers would assess airports around the world, in response to the crash of a Russian plane in Egypt last month that the British government suspects may have been downed by a bomb. 

Mr Cameron also told BBC radio he wanted Britain to carry out air strikes against ISIS militants in Syria but still needed to convince more lawmakers to back such action.

"I have always said I think that it is sensible that we should, ISIL (ISIS) don't recognise a border between Iraq and Syria and neither should we but I need to build the argument, I need to take it to parliament, I need to convince more people," he said.

"We won't hold that vote unless we can see that parliament would endorse action because to fail on this would be damaging, it is not a question of damaging the government, it is a question of not damaging our country and its reputation in the world."

Britain is involved in bombing in Iraq but Mr Cameron lost a parliamentary vote in 2013 to extend that action to Syria.

However, he said he would take immediate direct action if British interests were at stake citing drone attacks which had killed British militants in August.