Scotland Yard today warned that Islamic State terrorists were planning “enormous and spectacular” attacks on western countries as part of the dreaded terror outfit’s strategy to broaden its focus.
Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner Mark Rowley, who is also the UK’s national head of counter-terrorism, told reporters that Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists were broadening their focus to target western lifestyles.
“In recent months we’ve seen a broadening. Much more plans to attack western lifestyle, and obviously the Paris attacks in November,” Rowley said.
“Going from that narrow focus on police and military as symbols of the state to something much broader. And you see a terrorist group which has big ambitions for enormous and spectacular attacks not just the types that we’ve seen foiled to date,” he said.
Scotland Yard noted that the number of terrorism-related arrests hit record levels last year 339 arrests in England, Wales and Scotland, which is the highest yearly figure.
This marked a 57 per cent increase in the last three years, compared with the previous three, Britain’s largest police force said.
It also marks an increase in women and families among those arrested, around 14 per cent were female and 13 per cent were aged 20 and under and nearly four out of five were UK nationals.
“You see a terrorist group that whilst on the one hand has been acting as a cult to use propaganda to radicalise people to act in their name. You also see them trying to build bigger attacks,” Rowley said.
“That would not have been the picture that one would have seen a few years ago. That is an indication of that radicalisation, the effect of the propaganda and the way the messages of Daesh (ISIS) are resonating with some individuals,” he said.
He said the ISIS was encouraging supporters who had received military training in Syria to enter northern Europe to stage attacks.
It also emerged at the briefing that psychologists are being deployed to work with counter-terrorism units because of increasing concern that people with mental health problems were being radicalised.
“Having that insight is critical,” Rowley said.
He also confirmed that the number of trained firearms officers across the UK had been increased in the wake of the attacks in Paris last year in which over 120 people were killed.