UK’s terror threat at levels 'not seen before,' says British intelligence chief

One of Britain's top security chiefs had a dire warning about the country's rising terror threat. 

In a rare public speech, Andrew Parker, the director general of MI5 – the equivalent of the FBI – described the threat as “multi-dimensional, evolving rapidly and operating at a scale and pace…not seen before.”

He said the threat level is the worst he’s seen in his 34-year career.

An undated handout photo issued by the Metropolitan Police, London, and made available Saturday, June 10, 2017, of the van used in the London Bridge attacks of Saturday June 3 which killed several people and wounded dozens more. The ringleader of the London Bridge terror gang tried to hire a 7.5 tonne lorry hours before the attack, police have revealed. Detectives suspect the carnage inflicted could have been even worse if Khuram Butt had not failed to secure the vehicle because his payment did not go through. (Metropolitan Police London via AP)o

An undated handout photo issued by the Metropolitan Police, London, and made available Saturday, June 10, 2017, of the van used in the London Bridge attacks of Saturday June 3 which killed several people and wounded dozens more.  (AP)

His speech follows a string of attacks in the UK and elsewhere this year. Some 36 people have been killed and dozens injured in attacks in London and Manchester the past year. 

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Add to that strikes across Europe, including Barcelona and beyond, both of the “Lone Wolf”-style or more orchestrated, and he describes a global challenge.  

“There is more terrorist activity coming at us more quickly,” Parker said, “and it can be harder to detect.”

There are, in fact, ongoing UK government probes into how well authorities handled the latest wave of attacks. According to the intelligence chief, they are already heading off more, including seven potentially deadly attacks thwarted this year and some 379 people have been arrested. There are some 500 investigations being conducted, it’s claimed, looking at 3,000 suspected terrorists.

British authorities say a big reason behind the terror uptick is the rise in recent years of the so-called Islamic State. And even as ISIS falls in the Mideast, the threat remains from foreign fighters coming home.

This image shows  people running through Manchester Victoria station after an explosion at Manchester Arena. in Manchester England, Monday May 22, 2017. An apparent suicide bomber set off an improvised explosive device that killed over a dozen people at the end of an Ariana Grande concert on Monday, Manchester police said Tuesday May 23, 2017.  The station is very near the arena. (Zach Bruce/PA via AP)

This image shows people running through Manchester Victoria station after an explosion at Manchester Arena. in Manchester England, Monday May 22, 2017. An apparent suicide bomber set off an improvised explosive device that killed over a dozen people at the end of an Ariana Grande concert.  (AP)

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“As well as those we are looking at today, “ Parker said, “risk can also come from returnees from Syria and Iraq.”

Just as significant, according to authorities here, the digital battlefield. The internet, including social media and instant messaging, provide yet more weapons for the modern jihadists.

According to MI5, this global threat demands cooperation between national security agencies.

The relationship between authorities in the UK and the US has had its ups and downs this year, but it remains close – and crucial. 

Greg Palkot currently serves as a London-based senior foreign affairs correspondent for Fox News Channel (FNC). He joined the network in 1998 as a correspondent. Follow him on Twitter@GregPalkot.