Andrew Parker, Director General of Britain's intelligence sector MI5, has issued a statement to the media that "mass casualty attacks against the West" are being planned by "a group of core al-Qaida terrorists in Syria." As the tragic terrorist situation in Paris continues to unfold, Parker has warned that transport networks and iconic landmarks in Western countries were central to "complex and ambitious plots" by Syria-based extremists. His speech and its message were scheduled prior to the Paris attacks, and its unfolding has added considerable weight to his announcement.
With the world's eye being trained on movements of ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, more focus has been zeroing in on Syria. The UK official reported that "a significant proportion" of British citizens, believed to number over 600 people, have traveled to the area with the intention of joining the jihadists. Not all extremists have left the country, however, and some have been encouraged to launch attacks against the nation. So far, three known Islamic terrorist plots on British citizens have been stopped by security services in recent months.
Al-Qaida has become a house hold name in the U.S. since the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, but since the death of Osama Bin-Laden in 2011, the group has seemed to recede into the background. Parker wants to highlight the group is still very much active, and still very dangerous. Al-Qaida-based terrorist cells are reportedly planning several large-scale aviation bombing and mass shooting attacks against the UK and other Western nations. Parker was believed to be referring to the Khorasan Group, made up of veteran al-Qaida members. According to intelligence assessments, many Pakistani members of the cell have appeared in Syria, lending authorities to believe the threat of mass attacks to be a very real possibility.
The UK is known for its incredibly sophisticated surveillance of its countries, but with many privacy advocates posing a threat to the system, Parker warns that the threat will only continue to grow.
"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... what are the right intrusive powers, at what scale, and under what oversight, to ensure sufficient security against the threats we face." he said.
The UK is not the only target of the cells. On September 22, the United States initiated airstrikes against the Khorasan Group based on intelligence assessments that the group was planning an attack on either America or the United Kingdom.
With the knowledge that jihadists are ramping up their mass attack strategy, do you believe that privacy should still be the main concern of citizens?
[Image courtesy of the Daily Mail]