As I write the two suspects in the Charlie Hebdo murders are holed up in a town north of Paris with as yet an unknown number of hostages. It is reported they are prepared to die as martyrs.
Although deserving to be ‘neutralized’ as put by French President Francois Hollande, I for one hope these assassins of at least twelve people are detained so crucial intelligence can be gleamed, although of course not if it puts the lives of any hostages in jeopardy.
Last night, the Head of MI5, Andrew Parker issued a stark warning for the UK. Firstly, it is unusual for the head of a UK security service to speak publicly particularly from Thames House, their own HQ. In fact this is one of the few times since he has spoken since being appointed Director-General in March 2013. Although this would have been organized prior to the Paris attacks, it was still clearly designed to have an impact.
We heard something new from Parker, that in his own words “it would be surprising if I didn’t focus first on the ongoing and increasing challenge from Syria.” Parker went on to describe it as a growing threat that continues to expand and morph. Was the Head of MI5 trying to send a public message that the reluctance from politicians to get involved further in Syria needs to be re-examined?
In addition to the highly-organised terrorist attacks, Parker issued a bleak view that ‘lone-wolf’ attacks which we have seen in Woolwich, Ottawa, Sydney and other parts of France are “inherently harder for intelligence agencies to detect.”
The tactic to ‘inspire’ people within western countries is becoming a powerful weapon adding to the tragic fact that many people are dying at the hands of fellow countrymen, home-grown terrorists, who often act spontaneously.
With the UK repeatedly threatened by name in propaganda videos, and an increase in brutal attacks like those seen in Paris, the raised terror threat level to severe is starting to feel just that. Not least it seems to the Head of MI5 who has both the most vital and difficult job to do.