“Our assessment is that Britain has experienced a credible terrorist attack plot about once a year since 9/11,” MI5’s Director General Jonathan Evans said in prepared remarks ahead of a rare public speech Monday to the Lord Mayor’s annual defense and security lecture in London.
“The (Olympic) games present an attractive target for our enemies and they will be at the center of the world’s attention in a month or so,” he said. “But the games are not an easy target, and the fact that we have disrupted multiple terrorist plots here and abroad in recent years demonstrates that the UK as a whole is not an easy target for terrorism.”
“Some are heading home to the Arab world again,” Evans said. “And a small number of British would-be jihadis are also making their way to Arab countries to seek training and opportunities for militant activity, as they do in Somalia and Yemen. Some will return to the UK and pose a threat here. This is a new and worrying development.”
“We have seen in recent months a series of attempted terrorist plots against Israeli interests in India, Azerbaijan and elsewhere,” he said. “So a return to state-sponsored terrorism by Iran or its associates, such as Hezbollah, cannot be ruled out as pressure on the Iranian leadership increases.”
In one recent case, a major London-listed company incurred revenue losses of 800 million pounds ($1.2 billion) because of a cyber attack, Evans said. He did not elaborate on the company’s name or what country was behind the attack.
“What is at stake is not just our government secrets but also the safety and security of our infrastructure, the intellectual property that underpins our future prosperity and the commercially sensitive information that is the lifeblood of our companies and corporations,” he said.
On June 28, 2012, London police detained two British Muslim converts on suspicion of terror offenses.
The official, who spoke only on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, said it wasn’t clear whether the arrests were related to the upcoming Olympic Games. Security is tight ahead of the London games, which begin on July 27.
“This doesn’t appear to be a big investigation, but it’s still early days,” he said, downplaying the importance of the arrests.
Scotland Yard identified the men as an 18-year-old and a 32-year-old, but didn’t give their names. The force said in a statement the pair was arrested early Thursday at separate addresses in east London.
A man who identified himself as a friend of the detainees identified the 18-year-old as Jamal ud-Din and said the older man was someone he knew only as “Zakariya.”
Mizanur Rahman, 29, said the arrests “might have had something to do with the fact that they recently went canoeing” on the River Lee, a branch of which runs through the Olympic site in east London. He said the pair also recently went shooting with an air rifle in Essex, a largely suburban and rural county east of London.