• Terrorism

    Mid Devon Advertiser
    01 April 2016

    Last week saw the terrorist attacks in Brussels. The explosions at the airport and Maelbeek metro station have resulted in over 30 deaths with a further 260 people seriously injured. 4 of those injured are British and one of our citizens remains unaccounted for. Daesh - the so-called Islamic State - has claimed responsibility. So when the Home Secretary made her statement to the Commons on Wednesday last week the mood was especially sombre. It is the not the first time that she has addressed us about atrocities of this kind with14 attacks having occurred in Europe since the beginning of 2015. In January last year 17 people were murdered in the Paris attacks at the offices of Charlie Hebdo and in a Jewish supermarket. A month later two people were murdered in a synagogue and café in Copenhagen and in November 130 people were killed in the Paris attacks. Terrorism has stretched its ugly fingers across the globe including to Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Kuwait, Egypt, and Tunisia where 30 British holidaymakers were killed. More recently, a suicide bomber murdered 5 people and injured more than 30 in an attack in the centre of Istanbul. The government’s immediate response to the Belgium attack has been to offer further security and intelligence support to the Belgium government. This can be highly effective with our current intelligence pooling and co-operation (which includes the deployment of police and intelligence officers to Brussels) having helped to secure the arrest of Salah Abdesalam who is suspected of direct involvement in the Paris attacks last year.

    We have also increased our police presence at our own transport hubs and at our border controls points in Brussels and France.

    In the longer term we will continue to face significant threats from Islamist extremists. It is thought that Daesh has sent 400 fighters to Europe to plot terror on our continent and it is a great credit to our security services that we have not seen a repeat of the kind of atrocity that visited us on 7th July 2005 with the cowardly attacks on London’s transport system. Dealing with the threat must mean the continued vigorous pursuit of our anti radicalization programs and the close co-operation between our police and security services.  But it will also mean giving our security services the ability to keep on top of terrorist threats in the new digital age. We have now moved firmly into a world in which terrorists (and organized crime including pedophile networks) use the Internet and encryption to disseminate information and organise. The Investigatory Powers Bill is now before parliament and will help our security services to access certain personal data provided this is proportionate to the threats that exist. There is a balance to be struck between privacy and security but it is important that we don’t fight shy of providing our security services with appropriate access - subject to safeguards - to the digital information used by those who would do us harm.