There is ‘real risk’ of Islamist terror attack in London says Met Police boss

The ‘terror alert red light’ is blinking, says head of the UK’s terror police


A protester waves a Palestinian flag during a rally in support of Palestinians, outside of the Houses of Parliament in central London on November 15, 2023, to demand Members of Parliament vote for a ceasefire in Gaza. MPs gathered at the House of Commons to vote on the King's Speech amendment calling for Gaza ceasefire. (Photo by HENRY NICHOLLS / AFP) (Photo by HENRY NICHOLLS/AFP via Getty Images)

There is a “real risk” of London facing a lone wolf terror attack similar to the stabbing that killed one man in Paris last month as hate crimes spike amid anti-Israel protests, the head of the UK’s terror police has said.

Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Matt Jukes told the home affairs select committee on Tuesday that the force was beginning to see “red lights blinking everywhere” over the threat, while Chief Constable Chris Haward said every national anti-Israel demonstration sees simultaneous spike in antisemitic hate crime.

The Met have further concerns over the role of foreign state actors stoking division in Britain, with particular questions raised over the role of the Iranian government.

Jukes said: “Since January of last year we have had over 15 threats to life from Iranian state aggression towards dissident voices in the UK.”

While the force is not aware of direct links between the Islamic regime and protests on the streets of London, the Iranian interest in the Israel-Hamas conflict is a “principal concern”.

Since anti-Israel protests began on the 9th of October, the Met has carried out an “unprecedented” number of arrests of people suspected of breaching terror legislation.

“The overall picture is concerning, with people energised towards support for extremist ideologies,” Jukes said.

The threat will manifest at two speeds, he continued, with an “immediate” risk of people being “galvanised by hateful online material”.

"There is a real risk, as we saw in Paris recently, of an individual being energised by these events, some of this in Islamist space some in the far right space.”

Earlier this month, a man attacked several people on the streets of the French capital with a knife and hammer, killing one and injuring two more.

The Islamic convert is said to have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, to have shouted “Allahu Akbar” and to have told police he was upset because "many Muslims are dying in Afghanistan and in Palestine".

Jukes told MPs: “We are beginning to see red lights blinking everywhere… I would sit here today concerned [there is] at least a medium risk of more radicalisation from this conflict.”

Since October 7, there have been 22 suspects have been arrested on suspicion of breaching terror legislation.

That significantly outstrips the 12 to 13 arrests a year seen at the height of terror activity in the last decade, Jukes claimed.

The increase of offensive and radical material online has been “astonishing,” he added.

There has been a twelve-fold increase in referrals to the Met of online material, with 500 items currently being investigated as potential breaches of terror legislation.

Calls to the counter-terror hotline have doubled, Jukes said, with 25 per cent more intelligence “flowing through” the counter-terror police.

He said: "This is an exceptional period where we have a sense of counter terror risk which is immediate… and the presence clearly of a vast amount of hate crimes.”

Since October 7, there has been a 680 per cent increase in anti-Jewish hate crimes alongside a 140 per cent increase in Islamophobic offences, chief constable of Lincolnshire Police and gold commander of the Met’s response to London demonstrations Chris Haward said.

Such offences have “spiked” at weekends when national anti-Israel protests have taken place, he claimed.

Haward said the force is paying close attention to reports of a “sense of fear” among Jewish communities.

Following months of anti-Israel protests across the country, policing resources are more stretched now than at any point since the Olympics, the select committee was told.

"The scale of the policing challenge is enormous,” Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist said.

There have been hundreds of arrests over suspected antisemitic incidents alongside a “big impact” on the Muslim community, with 800 hate crime investigations currently open, he claimed.

Since October 7, the additional policing resources required have cost £17 million.

The Met has used all available legal powers to restrict the scope, duration and route of protests, Twist added, but that response has been “incredibly resource-intense”.

Sara Khan, the former lead commissioner for the Home Office's Commission for Countering Extremism, told MPs, “the scale of radicalisation in this country is unprecedented,” following Hamas’s attack against Israel.

The government must do more to clamp down on anti-democratic organisations such as Hizb ut-Tahrir, she said.

The Islamist group have led calls for “jihad” and for “Muslim armies” to march on Israel, though leaders have insisted they do not support terrorism.

Robin Simcox, the Home Office’s commissioner for countering extremism, said he was concerned at extremist rhetoric from some sections of the Muslim community.

“Some of the content coming out of mosques, I’m telling you we have to be really, really wary of some of the sentiments being expressed… the sentiments that are being aired are really, really potentially dangerous for this country,” he said.

Recent protests saw demands to “globalise the intifada,” he said, but the results of such a call had been revealed by terror attacks in London on 7/7, at the Bataclan theatre in Paris, and at the Manchester Arena bombing.

Simcox said: “There is a right to protest, yes, but is there a right to protest in centre of London every week to ensure that many Jewish people don’t go there? I’m not sure…

"We shouldn’t accept any minority feeling unsafe in our capital city.”

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