June 3, 2018 / 11:06 PM / 5 months ago

Britain revises security strategy to counter 'step change' in militant threat

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain will counter what it calls a “step change” in the threat posed by militants with a revised counter-terrorism strategy published on Monday that looks to harness technology, share information more widely, and strengthen ties with businesses.

Two women react during commemorations of the first anniversary of the attack on London Bridge, in London, Britain, June 3, 2017. REUTERS/Simon Dawson

Recently-appointed interior minister Sajid Javid said the new strategy incorporated lessons from attacks in London and Manchester last year which killed 36 people, and would help Britain tackle an evolving threat.

The interior ministry warned on Sunday that the threat posed by Islamist militants to Britain is expected to remain high for the next two years and could even rise.

“The threat from terrorism is one of the starkest we face and it is clear there has been a step change,” Javid said at the launch of the revised strategy.

He said the time between being radicalised and planning an attack was shorter than in the past, that radicalisation was happening more frequently online, and that everyday items were being used to carry out plots.

The launch gave Javid, who was appointed in April after the resignation of a close ally of Prime Minister Theresa May, a chance to stamp his own authority on Britain’s security agenda. Some see Javid as a potential challenger to May.

The current threat level to Britain is assessed as severe, meaning an attack is highly likely. The government said it had foiled 25 Islamist militant plots since June 2013 - 12 of those since March 2017 - and was currently handling more than 500 live operations.

Javid said Muslims were not responsible “for the acts of a tiny minority who twist their faith” and that there was a unique role for them to play in the fight against extremists.

“British Muslims up and down the country are leading the fight against Islamist extremists, by throwing them out of their mosques and by countering poison online and on the streets,” he said.

While Islamist militants pose the biggest threat, the risks from far-right extremism are also growing, he said.

A review found existing counter-terrorism policy was well-organised and comprehensive, but suggested ways it could be improved to cope with militant groups’ changing tactics.

The government will trial more information sharing by intelligence agencies and the police with bodies such as local authorities “to improve our understanding of those at risk of involvement in terrorism and enable a wider range of interventions.”

The strategy will also target better information-sharing, including with businesses, to speed up flagging of suspicious purchases, improve security at crowded places, and reduce the vulnerability of infrastructure.

It will also look to tap private sector and academic expertise to harness data analytics and machine learning to improve detection.

Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg

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