From the editor

June 2017





The terrorist attack in Manchester has dominated international news over the last few weeks. What inspires bombers like Salman Abedi to calmly detonate a homemade bomb is a question that may never be truly answered. The slaughter of youngsters and parents who had just attended a music event, was a deplorable act. Two weeks later three terrorists struck in central London at around 10.10pm, in this case using a vehicle to run people down on London Bridge, and then using knives to stab others enjoying a night out in the Borough Market area of the capital. Ten minutes later a rapid response counter-terrorism unit confronted the attackers, all of whom wore fake suicide bomb vests - they were duly shot dead. By noon the following day (4th June), police disclosed seven people had died and around 40 had been injured. CT operations followed and raids were conducted in London leading to the arrest of 12 people.

Both attacks were horrific in nature and bore all the hallmarks of countless other operations linked to the terrorist groups of ISIS and al-Qaida. Suffice it to say, and despite a formidable intelligence collection system in Britain, they will not be the last. In respect of the Manchester incident, the security services are now trying to determine just how much help Abedi had. I'm fairly convinced that at the very least was he 'schooled' by associates and 'friends' -some residing in Libya with threads to both ISIS and probably AQ. However, undoubtedly there are others in the UK who knew of his intentions.

Questions are quite rightly being asked how such a character managed to elude MI5's primary terrorism watchers. It is true the Security Service was aware of Abedi, but had insufficient intelligence to make him a significant 'person of interest' or a 'high value' target for surveillance. This is despite his frequent visits to Libya, his connections with an ISIS recruiter, and others who had departed from the Manchester area to fight for ISIS in Syria. Others insist they had tried to warn the police that Abedi was being radicalised.

Perhaps in an effort to stop further questions on this aspect, MI5 launched an internal probe to determine if anything was missed. At the same time, the Home Office presented information which aptly reflects the scale of the task facing MI5 and other security elements. Over 20,000 people have now been flagged as potential threats, whilst MI5 itself is engaged in 500 counter-terrorism operations, supported by New Scotland Yard. Quite simply, it is an impossible task to watch so many people with the intensity to determine intent. In time, police will present details of the investigation, but I suspect not everything will be revealed. Some intelligence will be deemed so secret that if disclosed - it could hamper or dismantle on-going or future operations.

None of this will be of much comfort to the families of those affected by an act which beggars belief. Nor too the arrest and conviction of other people in the UK brainwashed by the ideology of ISIS. In the last 12 months alone, one person every three days has been detained and questioned by police investigating links to ISIS. Many have been active participants in some frightening plots. These involved bombing shopping centres, football stadiums, transport hubs and airliners. Several feature in this edition of Eye Spy.

As ISIS loses more territory every day in the Middle East, it has continued to call on supporters in faraway lands to engage in terrorism. Attacks by small cells and single-person operators have taken place in France, Sweden, Russia, Saudi Arabia and several other countries. Other plots have been thwarted. Many monitoring companies are now trying to determine just how many attacks have taken place, or been derailed: how many people have been killed. However, statistics are difficult to secure, and with ISIS claiming responsibility for incidents known not to be connected to the terror group, presenting an accurate picture is impossible. Nor the impact on those who have lost loved ones. Victims such as the 22 who died in Manchester and the seven civilians in London - plus over 120 people seriously injured have been absorbed into the statistics. But it should never be forgotten they, like so many others killed in terrorist acts, are innocent human beings - each had a life - they are not simply numbers.

Mark Birdsall - Editor