The UK is home to up to 25,000 Islamist extremists who could pose a threat, the EU’s top terror official has warned.
Officials have warned that the threat from home-grown jihadis who are prevented from joining Isis in Syria and Iraq is increasing, with the group inciting global terror attacks to maintain momentum.
Among those known to security services but not considered an imminent danger were the perpetrators of the three Isis-linked terror attacks that have killed 35 victims in Britain this year.
Westminster attacker Khalid Masood was described a “peripheral figure” by Theresa May, while the Manchester bomber Salman Abedi was known to MI5 but not under active investigation and the ringleader of the London Bridge attack, Khuram Butt, was not thought to be a risk despite being a known member of Anjem Choudary’s banned network.
A man carrying a little girl flies an ISIS flag outside Parliament
Gilles de Kerchove, the EU’s counter-terror coordinator, said he expected more atrocities following the deadly car rammings in Barcelona and Cambrils.
“The group’s propaganda no longer calls so much for people to travel to the ‘caliphate’, but to launch attacks in their places of origin or of residence, even on a small scale with homemade weapons.”
Mr de Kerchove said the UK was home to the highest known number of Islamist radicals in Europe – between 20,000 and 25,000 people – with 3,000 considered a direct threat by MI5 and 500 under constant surveillance.