Stefan Wermuth / REUTERS

British Counterterrorism Policy After Westminster

London Can Do More to Prevent Radicalization

It was always a matter of when, and not if, the United Kingdom was going to suffer another terrorist attack. The death toll from the strike in Westminster stands at four, with dozens more injured. The perpetrator was Khalid Masood, a British citizen and convert to Islam. The Islamic State (also known as ISIS) has released a statement describing Masood as “an Islamic State soldier” who “carried out the operation in response to calls to target citizens of the coalition.”

The United Kingdom has long been a target for Islamist extremists. The July 2005 bombings targeting the London transport network (which killed 52) and the stabbing to death of drummer Lee Rigby in May 2013 are evidence, as are the approximately 850 people who have traveled from the country to Syria to fight for ISIS and other radical groups.

However, this only scratches the surface. In virtually every year since 9/11, the United Kingdom has either thwarted or suffered a major terrorist attack. Many were tied to al Qaeda and had their origins in Pakistan. The fertilizer bomb plot of 2004, the transatlantic liquid bomb plot of 2006, and the Easter bomb plot of 2009 are all such examples. Other attacks had their origins in the Levant. Car bombs and a suicide attack in London and Glasgow in 2007 were carried out by the ISIS’s precursor group, al Qaeda in Iraq. Terrorist acts planned from Syria in 2015 forced the United Kingdom to carry out a successful drone strike against one of its own citizens in response, the first time it has ever done so.

AN ASSERTIVE POLICY

In confronting the threat of terrorism, London has been anything but passive. Overseas, it has committed its military to war efforts in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria and carried out counterterrorism training in Somalia and Mali.

In confronting the threat of terrorism, London has been anything but passive.

Domestically, there have been 264 convictions in British courts for Islamism-inspired terrorism offenses. The Home Office has developed both a counterterrorism strategy and a counter-extremism strategy. The security services are monitoring over 3,000 people in the United Kingdom who are suspected of being willing to commit attacks. MI5, MI6, GCHQ (the United Kingdom’s domestic, foreign, and signals intelligence agencies), and the police work together effectively; the intelligence turf wars that blight other European countries are not nearly as pronounced there.

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