Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 15 July 2020

Reading attack: 25 UK terrorist plots foiled in past three years

Khairi Saadallah, the alleged knifeman in Saturday’s UK attack, was known to MI5 last year

Days after a deadly terrorist attack in southern England, Britain’s security minister revealed that domestic counter-intelligence agents have thwarted 25 plots in the past three years.

On Saturday, three people were murdered and another three were seriously injured in a park in Reading after a knife attack allegedly by Khairi Saadallah, a 25-year-old Libyan refugee.

Mr Saadallah, who lived in the town, was detained a short distance from the scene at Forbury Gardens and arrested on suspicion of murder.

He was later rearrested under Section 41 of the Terrorism Act, which allows police to detain him without charge for up to 14 days.

James Brokenshire, the Minister of State for Security, said on Monday that Mr Saadallah was known to MI5 last year, prompting criticism that the government should have watched him more carefully.

But Mr Brokenshire went on the defensive, saying that Britain had "some of the finest security and intelligence services in the world" despite the significant terrorist threat. The British government spends £900 million (Dh4.1 billion) per year on fighting terrorism.

In March 2017, 57-year-old Briton Khalid Masood drove a car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge in London, injuring more than 50 people and killing four. Since then, Mr Brokenshire said, 25 terrorist plots had been foiled by security services.

British security services were working on 800 investigations into potential terrorism he said, and added that each week “there may be hundreds of leads”.

Mr Brokenshire has not named Mr Saadallah as the suspect in Saturday’s attack, and did not confirm or deny any reports about him.

“We don’t comment on issues of security – who is or is not subject to investigation or any interest to the security services,” he told Sky News.

“This is a very live police investigation and I’m limited in what I can say this morning as a consequence.

“We are looking very closely at all of the facts and circumstances of this case, and if there lessons that need to be learnt, if there are things that need to be changed, if there’s policy that needs to be altered, then that is precisely what we will do,” he said.

Candles lie along Westminster Bridge in London in memory of the victims of the Westminster attack.  EPA
Candles lie along Westminster Bridge in London in memory of the victims of the Westminster attack.  EPA

In an interview with the BBC, Mr Brokenshire said that Britain had seen a surge in far-right and Islamic terrorism. The minister also praised the emergency services for their swift response to Saturday’s attack.

"I want to pay tribute to the work of our emergency services, the police, all of those first responders who dealt with this appalling evil and callous act, but also those members of the public as well who supported the police, bravely dealt with those issues on the ground.

"Our thoughts, our hearts, go out to all of those this morning who have lost loved ones, who are mourning or have been affected by this appalling incident."

Updated: June 23, 2020 12:16 AM

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