Britain faces terrorism-related threats from “everywhere”, Home Secretary Priti Patel has said, as she warned of the effect Covid-19 could have on extremism.
She said security services were looking at a wide range of “environmental factors” that could serve as “triggers” for attacks, including mental health issues stemming from lockdowns.
The EU previously gave warning that extremists would seek to exploit Covid-19 to spread their ideology and recruit vulnerable people.
“The threats are everywhere. We can’t just pinpoint and say the threat comes from one particular group or one set of mindsets or individuals. Threats are prevalent every single day,” Ms Patel told Times Radio.
“We’ve also had the pandemic. Obviously we’ve had a year of people being locked down. We see all sorts of issues in terms of mental health, for example.
"We have to look at a wide range of environmental factors that could act as triggers when it comes to terrorism-type behaviour and the threats to individuals and also to society.”
Ms Patel said it wasn’t “binary” when it came to causes and outcomes, with the security services adapting to potential threats.
“It’s also really important to point out that the internet has a role to play in this as well,” she said.
Ms Patel referenced the murder of 51 people at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2019, which was streamed online.
Chris Phillips, the former head of the UK’s National Counter Terrorism Security Office, noted the threats to Britain posed by both far-right and Islamist extremists.
“If we listen to the security services and the police, then the growth of right-wing terrorism is a major issue.
"It’s certainly the growth area of terrorism at the moment, albeit that we still have the extreme Islamic threat, which is there and it’s not going away.
“We’ll be lucky if we don’t have a terrorist attack this year,” he said.
It came a day after the unveiling of a new state of the art counter terrorism operations centre in London, which will open later this year.
The decision to create CTOC, which will continue to be built over the next four years, came after a series of deadly terrorist attacks in 2017 in the UK, which killed 35 people.
Many of the assailants had been on the radar of the security services. An independent review recommended that the UK bolster its counter-terrorism approach.
“Finding concealed threats is a difficult job. We’re always looking for ways to shave the odds in our favour,” said Ken McCallum, the head of the UK’s domestic intelligence service MI5.
"We know our chances of success are better when we combine the knowledge and the skills of experts from different organisations, fighting terrorism as a single team. CTOC is a massive next step on that journey – a world first.
“CTOC is built around the needs of the public, not the convenience of institutions,” he said.
Ms Patel said the centre would unite the police, intelligence agencies and the criminal justice system to “ensure that they can discover and disrupt threats more quickly to better protect the public”.
“The threats we face as a country from terrorism are diverse and always changing. To keep the British people safe, we must ensure we’re one step of ahead of those that seek to do us harm and attack our way of life,” she added.
CTOC’s operations suite is now up and running, while a forensics laboratory is also being built.
Cressida Dick, the head of London’s police force, said CTOC would enable the authorities to “work much more collaboratively and effectively”.
Police have said 29 “deadly attack plots” have been disrupted since 2017 in the UK.