Decreased powers and an increased threat

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The concerned looks on the faces of David Cameron and Theresa May as they announced the increase in the UK terrorist threat level to ‘Severe’ were palpable.

Terrorist attacks on the UK are now thought to be highly likely and the threat is identified as emanating from Islamic State extremists.

What kind of attacks could we expect to see? The most obvious are more suicide bombings similar to those which took place in London on July 7, 2005. However, IS may be influenced by the terrorist manual recently published by Al-Qaeda, which recommends attacks on department stores during the time of Friday prayers to minimise the risk to those of Muslim faith.

Also, barbaric decapitations or targeted knife attacks similar to the one inflicted on Fusilier Lee Rigby in Woolwich on May 22, 2013 have proved successful in causing widespread horror and publicity.

How many people support Islamic State extremism in the UK? That is an unknown, but at least 500 British citizens have already travelled to Syria to fight for ISIS. Added to this number are, probably several thousand others, who are either radicalised, in the late stages of radicalisation or who actively support the goals of IS.

There will also be passive supporters and those who will acquiesce to IS views through fear. So an estimate of 10,000 could be a very conservative one.

The UK finds itself in a position that the Prime Minister describes as ‘The greater and deeper threat to security than we have known’. Bearing in mind our troubled history with terrorism, that is a stark warning.

Meanwhile the police, who are the front line of providing security have had their powers to stop and search people, amended and restricted.

Specifically, they are trying to reduce the number of checks carried out on minorities, which includes the sections of society where the majority of these extremists live.

If the threat assessment is accurate, then the government needs to act quickly and ensure police powers and terrorist legislation is capable of dealing with this clear and present danger because they aren’t at the moment.