LONDON (REUTERS) - London will not be cowed by militants who have killed 35 people in three separate attacks in Britain, but police will ask for more resources to tackle the threat from marauding assailants, London police chief Cressida Dick told Reuters on Saturday (June 10).
Three Islamist militants rammed a hired van into pedestrians on London Bridge last Saturday before going on the rampage through the bustling Borough Market area, where they slit throats and stabbed people.
Three French people, two Australians, one Canadian, a Spanish man and a Briton were killed in the attack, and almost 50 wounded. Police shot the attackers dead just eight minutes after the first call from the public.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dick said she understood that people were concerned about security after the attacks in London and Manchester, but that the British capital would not be intimidated.
“London is a safe city and we will do everything we can in our power to keep you safe,” she said in an interview at London police headquarters, just a few steps away from Westminster Bridge, where an attacker killed five people on March 22.
“We won’t let them win and London will carry on,” she said, adding that security services had foiled five plots since then.
Dick, an Oxford University graduate, was appointed London’s first female police chief and Britain’s top officer in February, taking charge of a force of 43,000 officers and staff with a budget of more than 3 billion pounds (S$5.3 billion).
BAPTISM OF FIRE
She officially started the job less than three weeks after Khalid Masood drove a car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, and then stabbed a policeman to death in the grounds of parliament.
Then, eight weeks later, three Islamists staged a carbon-copy attack on London Bridge.
The spate of recent attacks – the deadliest in Britain since four British Islamist suicide bombers killed 52 people on the London transport system in July 2005 – thrust security and policing to the fore of the campaign for last Thursday’s election.
Prime Minister Theresa May, a former interior minister, came under particular scrutiny for cuts to the police.
Asked if the Metropolitan Police needed more resources, Dick said: “We will want more resources to help us and I am sure the same will be being said in the intelligence agencies.
“Obviously we will be reviewing, for example, the number of armed officers we have and how they work, and a whole host of other things that are likely, from my point of view, to take more resources, and I will be asking for them.”
After the London Bridge attack, May said Britain was under threat from a new breed of crude copycat militants who did not spend months planning and may not have been radicalised online.
'WE WILL STEP UP A GEAR'
“We are highly effective at preventing attacks in this country and we will step up a gear and do our level best to stop any further attacks,” Dick said, urging those hiring out vehicles to be vigilant. “But, as you point out, highly volatile people who are intent on doing something absolutely terrible and who are quite happy – maybe even pleased – to kill themselves and to use low-tech methods – these are difficult things to defend against.”
On the day of the London Bridge attack, the three men had initially tried to hire a 7.5 tonne truck, the head of London police’s counter-terrorism unit said on Friday.
Dick, who left the police to work in the Foreign Office in 2015 before taking up her new role, said the militant threat was largely domestic.
“The majority of them have a domestic focus, if I can put it that way, a domestic centre of gravity,” she said. “However, there are international connections and links in many of them.”
Although the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group has claimed responsibility for the London Bridge attack, police have said there was no evidence that the perpetrators – Pakistani-born Briton Khuram Butt, Italian Youssef Zaghba and Rachid Redouane, who had links to Libya, Morocco and Ireland – were directed by anyone else, either in Britain or abroad.
Dick said it was common for ISIS to make claims about attacks that it had not been directly involved in.