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Thursday, November 14, 2013

British officials discuss 'rising' al Qaeda threat during testimony -- By Thomas Joscelyn, The Long War Journal

head of the Secret Intelligence Service , MI6,  John SawersDuring testimony before the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament on Nov. 7, top British officials discussed the ongoing threat from al Qaeda and affiliated groups.

Sir John Sawers, the chief of the Secret Intelligence Service, or MI6, said the "biggest" threat to the UK is from terrorism, namely "al Qaeda and its many, many branches."

Al Qaeda has been "emerging and forming and multiplying in a whole new range of countries, and of course that poses extra challenges, extra threats to us," Sawers said. "There is no doubt that, especially over the last 12 months really, the threat has emerged."

Sawers noted that more "British citizens have been killed overseas in 2013 than in the previous seven years combined." He cited the January siege of the In Amenas natural gas facility in Algeria, as well as the attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya in September, as evidence of the increasing threat. British citizens were killed in both incidents.

"There is no doubt at all that the threat is rising," Sawers said.

"We do what we can to disrupt terrorist attacks overseas," Sawers explained. "We foil a good number, but some of them get through and the threat overseas is getting greater."

Andrew Parker, the Director General of the Security Service, or MI5, described how the threat from al Qaeda has evolved over time. After 9/11, Parker explained, there was an almost "monolithic" terrorist threat emanating from South Asia. In the years that followed, the threat has "spread out."

"I want to be clear," Parker said, "this diversification of threat is not a shift or a displacement from one area to another." Instead, according to Parker, it is "the growth of the al Qaeda phenomenon" across Africa, Yemen, and Syria.

34 terror plots since 7/7 bombings

Parker said that there have been 34 terrorist plots in Britain since the July 7, 2005 bombings in London and "the vast majority" of them "have been disrupted by active detection and intervention by the Agencies and the police." One or two failed on their own, the MI5 head added.

The 34 plots, Parker said, include one or two "major plots aimed at mass casualty that have been attempted each year."

The "vast majority of the plots come from people who live" in the UK, Parker said.

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