MI5 Head Warns al-Qaida Plans 'Mass-Casualty Attacks Against the West'NEWSMAX
l-Qaida militants in Syria are plotting attacks to inflict mass casualties in the West, possibly against transport systems or "iconic targets," the head of Britain's MI5 Security Service said on Thursday.
Speaking after gunmen killed 12 people in an assault on a French satirical newspaper, MI5 boss Andrew Parker warned that a strike on the United Kingdom was highly likely.
"A group of core al-Qaida terrorists in Syria is planning mass-casualty attacks against the West," Director General Parker said in a rare public speech at MI5 headquarters in London. His last public speech was in October 2013.
Al-Qaida killed nearly 3,000 people by attacking the United States with hijacked passenger planes on Sept. 11, 2001. Militants inspired by the group killed 52 commuters in London on July 7, 2005, with suicide bombs.
Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. special forces in 2011, and the threat posed by the network to the West seemed to recede in recent years.
But spies in Europe and the United States have been troubled that al-Qaida militants from Pakistan have appeared in war-torn Syria in what some intelligence analysts say could be part of a plot to mount a major attack against the West.
Thursday's stark warning from one of the West's most influential spymasters mirrors a growing concern among Western political leaders and their Arab allies about the threat from the cauldron of militant groups in Syria and Iraq.
Parker said that about 600 British extremists had traveled to Syria, many joining the militant group that calls itself Islamic State (ISIS) and has taken control of swathes of Iraq and Syria.
The group, an offshoot of al-Qaida, has beheaded two U.S. journalists and an American and two British aid workers in an effort to put pressure on a U.S.-led international coalition bombing its fighters in Syria.
ISIS militants in Syria are plotting attacks on Britain and making sophisticated use of social media to incite British nationals to carry out violence, Parker said.
MI5, established in 1909 to counter German espionage ahead of World War I, stopped three potentially deadly "terrorist plots" against the U.K in recent months, he said.
"We face a very serious level of threat that is complex to combat and unlikely to abate significantly for some time," said Parker, who has argued strongly for more surveillance powers to spy on militant communications on the Internet.
He said security services need to have access to such communications.
"My sharpest concern as director general of MI5 is the growing gap between the increasingly challenging threat and the decreasing availability of capabilities to address it," he said.
"The dark places from where those who wish us harm can plot and plan are increasing," Parker said.
"We need to be able to access communications and obtain relevant data on those people when we have good reason."