Terrorists may see UK as ‘good symbolic location for attack’, says expert

Terrorists may see UK as ‘good symbolic location for attack’, says expert

The UK may be a “good symbolic location” for a future terror attack but it is Turkey, France and the Netherlands which are likely to be in the sights of the group claiming responsibility for the Moscow attack, a terrorism expert has warned.

The so-called Islamic State (IS) terror group claimed responsibility for the assault, releasing apparent footage of the incident on its Telegram channels on Saturday.

It is believed a branch known as Isis-K carried out the attack on Friday, in which gunmen stormed the Crocus City Hall music venue on the outskirts of Moscow, opening fire on innocent concertgoers before setting the building ablaze.

At least 137 people were killed and 182 injured.

Dr Antonio Giustozzi, a senior research fellow at the defence and security think-tank Royal United Services Institute (Rusi), told i: “The UK would be a good location symbolically” but said he didn’t “think it is much of a priority because it is difficult to get into the UK but also because buying weapons in the UK is very difficult.”

He said the group will keep trying because they are desperate.

“It’s like roulette, but the reality is counter-terrorism has got much better, so actually it’s much harder for them to penetrate again”, he added.

However, the group is understood to have been behind “tonnes of plots in Russia, Iran and Turkey” which have been thwarted or passed off without much media attention.

“They try and try and try and then this one has succeeded big”, Dr Giustozzi said. “This is something which has had big media resonance. This is the perfect attack for them.

“The message has been sent to the people they want to recruit and the people who will contribute to their coffers.

“They probably just want to continue with a wide range of targets.”

Aside from Russia – likely to have been targeted because of its involvement in the Syrian civil war, the war in Afghanistan and Chechnya – other countries needing to be on high alert include Turkey, France and The Netherlands.

He said Turkey will be a priority as it has been a main hub for Isis and the state has been “cracking down” on the group.

“In the last couple of years, Turkey has been detaining people and seizing assets”, he said.

France and the Netherlands would also be key targets because of problems with xenophobia and tensions between the far-right and Muslim communities, Mr Giustozzi said.

He added: “If there is already a problem, then the group will try to blow this up.

“France and the Netherlands are perfect for that because of tensions there between Muslim communities and the far-right.”

Vladimir Putin called the attack “a bloody, barbaric terrorist act” and said Russian authorities captured the four suspects as they were trying to escape to Ukraine through a “window” prepared for them in the country.

Four alleged gunmen, badly beaten and bruised, appeared in court in Russia charged with committing an act of terrorism and were remanded in custody for two months.

In response to the attack, the French government raised its terror alert to the highest level on Sunday.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron, during a visit to French Guyana, said: “This group also tried to commit several actions on our own soil.”

The current threat level in the UK remains at substantial, which is the middle of five possible levels and means an attack is likely.

US officials said on Friday that America had intelligence confirming IS’s claim of responsibility.

The UK has repeatedly warned of and discussed with partners the increased threat from ISIS-K in recent months, an official told Bloomberg.

The Netherlands raised its threat level to “substantial” in December, warning of “risks posed by radicalised individuals” inspired by terrorist organisations.

Islamic State Khorasan (Isis-K), named after an old term for the region which included parts of Iran, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan, emerged in eastern Afghanistan in late 2014.

Made up of disaffected members of the Pakistani Taliban, it quickly established a reputation for extreme brutality.

One of the most active regional branches of the Islamic State militant group, its membership has declined since peaking around 2018 as both the Taliban and US forces inflicted heavy losses – but the United States still sees the group as an ongoing threat.

General Michael Kurilla, the commander of US Central Command, told Congress last March that Isis-K was quickly developing the ability to conduct “external operations” in Europe and Asia.

He predicted it would be able to attack US and Western interests outside Afghanistan “in as little as six months and with little to no warning”, though he said attacks within the US were less likely.

The US has said its ability to develop intelligence against extremist groups in Afghanistan such as Isis-K has been reduced since the withdrawal of troops from the country in 2021.

The military said it can see the “broad contours” of an impending attack but lacks the specific detail it had previously.

Isis-K has a history of attacks, including against mosques, inside and outside Afghanistan.

Earlier this year, the US intercepted communications confirming the group carried out twin bombings in the south-eastern city of Kerman in Iran which killed nearly 100 people.

In September 2022, Isis-K militants claimed responsibility for a deadly suicide bombing at the Russian embassy in Kabul.

The group was also responsible for an attack on Kabul’s international airport in 2021 which killed 13 US troops and scores of civilians during the US evacuation from the country.

And it was blamed for an attack on a maternity ward in Kabul in may 2020, which killed 24 people including women and babies.

Source » inews.co.uk