Britain’s newly appointed terror watchdog has warned citizens to prepare for “indiscriminate attacks” across the UK, expressing “grave concern” over the number of terrorists returning to the country.
Max Hill, a career terrorism prosecutor appointed as the independent reviewer of terrorism-related legislation, warned British citizens have not faced a comparable threat of terrorism since the bombing campaign waged by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in the 1970s.
Hill said there is an “enormous ongoing risk” while cautioning “it would be wrong to draw a simple comparison between Irish republicanism and the ideology of so-called Islamic State,” he said during an interview with the Sunday Telegraph.
“But in terms of the threat that’s represented, I think the intensity and the potential frequency of serious plot planning – with a view to indiscriminate attacks on innocent civilians of whatever race or colour in metropolitan areas – represents an enormous on-going risk that none of us can ignore.”
While noting the severity of threat, Hill warned against any hysteria due to the statistically small number of successful terrorist attacks in the United Kingdom.
“Although many people might be alarmed to hear me say that I think the threat is present and severe, we must remember that since July 2005 there has been in essence a single death in Britain from that form of terrorism, namely Lee Rigby on the streets of Woolwich,” he said.
Hill also expressed concern over the number of British citizens returning from Syria and Iraq after fighting alongside ISIS.
“It’s an enormous concern that large numbers – we know this means at least hundreds of British citizens who have left this country in order to fight – are now returning or may be about to return,” he said.
Despite proposed government efforts to force social media providers to remove content deemed “extremist-related,” Hill indicated his opposition to “draconian” measures that would threaten free speech online.
He also pledged to oppose any terrorism-related legislation by Prime Minister Theresa May’s government that would harm British society.