UK security services have foiled 13 terror attacks in the country since 2013 with 500 live counter-terror probes ongoing at any one time, Scotland Yard’s senior-most counter-terrorism officer said on Monday.
Investigators in Britain have been making arrests at a rate of close to one a day since 2014, the latest information showed.
Metropolitan Police Assistant commissioner Mark Rowley said police faced a range of threats and challenges, including encrypted communication methods, propaganda and various possible attack methods.
Rowley was speaking at the launch of a new appeal titled ‘Action Counters Terrorism’ for the British public to report suspicions to the police.
“The UK intelligence community and police have disrupted 13 UK terrorist attack plots since June 2013,” Rowley said.
Rowley noted that there were 500 live counter-terror investigations ongoing at any time.
“Some of that [public] information is a change in someone’s behaviour, some of that’s about suspicious activity. Sometimes that public information has actually started an investigation. Other times it’s part way through and it corroborates some things or adds to things we already know,” Rowley said.
“If it turns out to be a call where you made it with good intent but actually there was no problem at the end of it, that’s fine. We’d rather have many calls like that, rather than miss out on the critical one that helps us stop an attack,” he added.
The senior Met Police officer urged the public to trust their “instinct” and “don’t be cautious” when thinking of reporting anything of concern.
As part of the Action Counters Terrorism campaign, a podcast has been produced revealing previously untold stories of how terrorist attacks on UK soil were prevented, featuring accounts from detectives, bomb disposal and surveillance officers.
Rowley said the aim of releasing new material was to give an insight into how terrorists might prepare and provide more confidence for the public to report any suspicions.
The latest campaign comes as a study released this week reveals that converts to Islam were four times more likely to become terrorists than those who were born Muslims.
The report by the Henry Jackson Society think-tank, which analysed proven cases of Islamist-inspired terrorism between 1998 and 2015, also found that three quarters of terrorists are British nationals rather than immigrants.
Hannah Stuart, the author of the report, said: “This study identifies some significant new challenges for the authorities, including keeping track of a new generation of terrorists. I hope it will also tackle some of the myths that are prevalent in this area”.
The official terror threat level in the UK has stood at “severe” for years, meaning an attack is “highly likely”.
Much of the threat is posed by the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group, but senior officials believe Al Qaeda and far-right terrorism also remains a threat.