This week’s main security news has been the London Bridge terrorist attack on Saturday night, which left eight dead and dozens injured. The Independent reports that the attackers ran into pedestrians as they raced south along the bridge in a van before crashing into a balustrade outside the Barrowboy and Banker pub just after 10pm. At least one of the attackers was wearing a fake suicide bomb vest. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility. Armed police arrived at the scene within eight minutes of the first emergency call and shot the extremists dead. Officers fired around 50 rounds, with one civilian being accidentally wounded. Four police officers were injured in the attack, including a British Transport Police officer who took on all three terrorists with only his baton.
The Daily Telegraph reports that Khuram Butt, 27, who arrived as a refugee from Pakistan as a child, is believed to have led the trio of terrorists. He was supported by Rachid Redouane, a Moroccan-Libyan. The third attacker was named on Tuesday as Youssef Zaghba, a 22-year-old Moroccan. Butt had last year been seen in the Channel 4 documentary The Jihadis Next Door, posing in Regent’s Park with an Islamic State flag. He had been detained by police for an hour over the stunt, but was released without being arrested. MI5 and counter-terrorism officers began an investigation into Butt which was still ongoing when the attack occurred. Redouane had until recently been living in Dublin, and was not known to security services. Zaghba was reportedly arrested at Bologna airport in March 2016 trying to get to Syria and was also understood to be on an Italian anti-terror watch list. He had recently moved to east London and was working in a restaurant. Seventeen people have now been arrested in connection with Saturday's attack and five remain in custody.
The Guardian reports that Theresa May has warned that there has been “far too much tolerance of extremism” in the UK and, promised to step up the fight against Islamist terrorism, saying “enough is enough”. The Prime Minister also suggested the idea of increased prison terms for terrorism offences, even relatively minor ones. Speaking later, the BBC reports that Mrs May has said that human rights laws could be changed to facilitate tougher action.
The attack has led to a major row over cuts to UK policing since 2010. The Guardian reports that the Prime Minister has been forced on to the defensive in the wake of the UK terror attacks over cuts to the police, but has insisted they are “well resourced”. After a speech in London, she was asked at least five times about statistics showing the number of armed police had fallen from a peak of 6,796 in 2010 to 5,639 in 2016. However, she avoided answering the question. Met Commissioner Cressida Dick has said a debate is needed on future resources in the wake of recent attacks. Nevertheless, Police Oracle reports that the chairman of the Met Police Federation, Ken Marsh, has said that the Met has “got it right” in terms of the number of armed officers in the capital.
Despite attempts by the Government to focus the last few days of the election campaign onto Brexit, the questions over police cuts refused to go away. Theresa May’s role as Home Secretary from 2010 to 2016 means that she is particularly vulnerable to accusations that forces have been under-resourced.
· Further developments in Manchester attack inquiry
· Unarmed officers ‘must not be considered expendable’ warns Scottish Police Federation leader
· Irish Police foil bomb plot
· UK Air Chief Marshall tipped for senior NATO role
· Claim that new aircraft carrier sailors are resigning due to ‘boredom’
· Plymouth to play a ‘major role’ in the future of the Royal Navy
· EU looks to create military research fund
Further developments in Manchester attack inquiry
The Independent reports that a man has been arrested on terror charges at Heathrow Airport in connection with the Manchester Arena bombing. The 38-year-old was taken into custody as part of a planned operation, Greater Manchester Police (GMP) said, and clarified that there was no direct threat to the airport. It was the 19th arrest in the probe into the 22nd May attack: six people have so far been released without charge. “The 38-year-old was arrested on suspicion of offences contrary to the Terrorism Act and remains in custody,” GMP said in a statement on Twitter. “The arrest was planned beforehand and there was no direct threat to the airport.”
Earlier this week, GMP arrested a 24-year-old man in Rusholme on suspicion of offences contrary to the Terrorism Act. The arrest came after officers seized a car which they said could provide a “significant development” in the investigation. Residents near Devell House in Rusholme were evacuated and the Royal Logistics Corp bomb disposal team was called out on Friday after the white Nissan Micra was discovered. A 100m cordon was set up in the area near Banff Road, where police say suicide bomber Salman Abedi had visited in the days leading up to the attack.
The Independent also reports that the Manchester attacker, Salman Abedi, may have built the bomb that killed 22 people at the Manchester Arena in under four days, as it emerged that he may have met ISIS-linked militants in Libya. Police said the attacker purchased parts for the bomb after flying back from the country on 18th May, while experts confirmed terrorist training would have enabled Abedi to build it in 24 hours. British intelligence agencies are working with their Libyan counterparts to piece together Abedi’s activities in the country, which is split between rival governments and thousands of militias.
Unarmed officers ‘must not be considered expendable’ warns Scottish Police Federation leader
The Courier reports that Calum Steele, General Secretary of the Scottish Police Federation, has warned that police officers are effectively being considered as expendable as they are being pitched against armed terrorists without the means to defend themselves. “The simple fact is that we have police officers in this day and age that are facing guns, knives, extreme violence and they do not have the capability of protecting themselves,” Mr Steele told the BBC. He added: “We have to make sure we don’t have police officers in a situation where they are likely to be considered expendable because they do not have the personal, protective equipment to look after themselves.”
Scottish Justice Secretary Justice Michael Matheson said that police resources are under “constant review”, while the deployment of armed officers is for the chief constable to decide. The number of armed officers in Scotland is currently being increased from 250 to 374.
The recent terrorist strikes have reignited the long-running debate over arming the police, although this has been mitigated by the rapid response during the London attack. At present, there seems to be little prospect of a policy shift. As such, it will fall to existing armed police resources to deal with threats as they arise. The DPF will continue to highlight the importance of the MDP in both defending critical assets and in supporting Home Office forces when necessary.
Irish police foil suspected New IRA bomb plot
The Guardian reports that police have been given more time to question two men arrested after a cache of Semtex was discovered in Dublin. Gardaí seized the plastic explosive after armed officers stopped a taxi in the Ballybough area of the city. A bomb disposal unit was called and Gardaí arrested two men, aged 21 and 28, who are being questioned by detectives after their period of detention was extended on Saturday. Police also arrested a third man, aged 55. The men were arrested as part of an operation into the activities of dissident republicans. It has been claimed that one of the men arrested has close links to the New IRA, and the military-grade explosives had been sourced for the terror organisation in recent weeks.
UK Air Chief Marshall tipped for senior NATO role
The Times reports that Air Chief Marshall Sir Stuart Peach is the frontrunner to secure the post of chairman of the NATO military committee this September, one of the organisation’s most senior uniformed roles. Should he win the election, he would take the job in June, leaving his current position as Chief of the Defence Staff after only two years. The chairman heads the meetings of NATO military leaders, and provides advice to the Secretary General. Although notionally the most powerful military post in NATO, in practice it is the Allied Commander Europe, a position that is held by an American general, that wields the most power. Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said that Sir Stuart was ““is well qualified to take up the role and would take over 40 years’ worth of military experience with him into the heart of NATO”.
With the UK’s imminent departure from the EU, the British government is pressing to maximize its role within NATO in order to maintain influence in Europe. Earlier this year, it was rumoured that former Prime Minister David Cameron was in the running to become the next NATO Secretary General.
Claim that new aircraft carrier sailors are resigning due to ‘boredom’
The Daily Telegraph reports that the Royal Navy's delayed new aircraft carrier is facing a morale crisis, it has been claimed, as sailors “abandon ship” because they are bored. Sailors wishing to change jobs within the Navy have also had applications to leave the ship declined and are therefore resigning from the force entirely to pursue careers elsewhere. In the last few weeks, around 21 sailors have quit aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth amid claims morale has dropped “to an all-time low”. It has been claimed sailors are being forced to work longer hours and weekends without rest and people are not being released to go on resettlement courses prior to leaving the Navy as they cannot be replaced.
A Royal Navy spokesman denied morale is low on the ship and said the retirement rate is “absolutely in line with the fleet average”. The 65,000-ton carrier is due to begin sea trials this summer before it completes its first voyage to its home in Portsmouth in autumn.
Plymouth to play a ‘major role’ in the future of the Royal Navy
The Plymouth Herald reports that the Defence Secretary has given reassurances that Plymouth will continue to play a major role in the future of the Royal Navy. During a visit to the city this week, Sir Michael Fallon said the Royal Navy is growing and that Devonport will remain a key port for UK vessels. He also spoke of the significance of creating a ‘superbase’ for the Royal Marines in Plymouth and Torpoint and how Devonport will play a crucial role in providing maintenance services to the next generation of nuclear-powered submarines.
There will also be major changes for the city's Royal Marines in the coming years. 42 Commando is set to lose 200 troops as it transforms into a new maritime force tasked with fighting terrorists at sea and pirates. However, the region is set to welcome hundreds of Marines from other units.
Given the retirement of fleet flagship HMS Ocean next year and the relocation of all of the Royal Navy’s submarines to HMNB Clyde by 2020, there had been fears that the importance of Portsmouth’s HMNB Devonport might be undermined. However, the influx of hundreds of additional Royal Marines – some of which will be reportedly be from the Clyde-based 43 Commando – has provided reassurance over the future of the base. The MDP plays a central role in providing security to the facility.
EU looks to create military research fund
The Guardian reports that the European Union is mulling a €1bn (£870m) defence fund, as Britain’s impending departure raises hopes of deeper military cooperation in the bloc. The EU’s executive arm will outline plans for a fund to pool research into new military technology, such as drones, air-to-air refuelling planes and cyber-defence systems. If agreed by member states, it would be the first significant use of the EU budget for defence, although EU spending is likely to remain dominated by farm payments, road, rail and other infrastructure projects.
Despite inevitable wrangles over money, European leaders think defence can help revitalise the 60-year-old European project, after years of battling existential crises, from migration to Brexit. But plans for deeper military cooperation were drawn up long before Britain’s decision to leave, as a response to war and instability on the EU’s eastern and southern fringes.