The Prime Minister has said security at mosques across Britain will be reviewed after a van was driven into a crowd of Muslim worshippers in the latest terror attack to hit Britain. Theresa May called the attack “every bit as sickening as those that have come before”. She chaired a meeting of the emergency COBRA committee at Downing Street and later visited Finsbury Park Mosque in north London, near the site of the attack, meeting with community and faith leaders. The Metropolitan Police said there will be more uniformed officers at places of worship, including mosques and Muslim community centres, as they try to reassure local people. Speaking outside Number 10, Mrs May said the terrorist attack1 “targeted the ordinary and the innocent going about their daily lives”. “Today we come together as we have done before to condemn this act and to state once again that hatred and evil of this kind will never succeed,” she added. Mrs May said security was being stepped up.
“Extra police resources have already been deployed to reassure communities, and police will continue to assess the security needs of mosques and provide any additional resources needed,” she said.
The Government last summer announced a fund devoted to the security of places of worship, Home Secretary Amber Rudd said. “We have made available 2.5m,” she told Sky News. “I recently announced who would be getting those additional funds, which included 12 mosques, and actually I have reopened it recently to make sure that any additional place of worship that feels the need can apply for extra security.”
The attack happened shortly after midnight, when a man drove a van into a crowd of worshippers outside the mosque, injuring 10 people and leaving one dead. A 47-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder and terror offences. It is the fourth terror attack since March in the country, and the third to involve a vehicle deliberately driven at pedestrians.
Image: The scene as Mrs May visited the mosque
It comes during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. For the Prime Minister, it comes at a difficult time, following her disastrous election gamble and the Grenfell Tower fire, in which dozens of people died. Hers and the Government’s response to the blaze was widely criticised for lacking empathy . Mrs May did not meet any survivors when she first visited the scene of the fire, and was heckled when she returned a day later. Mrs May is fighting for her survival2 amid rumours a leadership challenge might be imminent.
Image: Communities Secretary Sajid Javid says the Government will fight ‘anti-Muslim hate crime’
Communities Secretary Sajid Javid also visited the scene, and, outside the police cordon, comforted a woman who was visibly shaking. Mr Javid said: “I want to reassure both the local Muslim community, but also Muslims across the United Kingdom, that they will always have the full support of this government in fighting anti-Muslim hate crime.” Jeremy Corbyn, who lives near the site of the attack, expressed “absolute shock”.
After meeting with faith leaders at Finsbury Park Mosque, the Labour leader called the attack “an act of terror against a wholly innocent community who were coming out of prayers and walking home on the street next to where I live”.
“I am of course critical of cuts made to the police service, I make no criticism of the police behaviour or reaction last night.”
Voters go to the polls today amid heightened security in what the National Police Chiefs Council says are “unprecedented times”. Election planners and police reviewed security plans after both the Manchester terror attack two weeks ago, in which 22 people were murdered by a suicide bomber and the London Bridge atrocity last weekend in which eight people were killed. National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) lead for protective security Deputy Assistant Commissioner Lucy D’Orsi said: “Security around polling stations is constantly being reviewed and updated by local police forces. :: The victims of the London terror attack1
Image: Supt Gavin Williams is in charge of policing the election in Wiltshire
“Plans are in place to make sure that resources are appropriately allocated.”
In Wiltshire, where there are five parliamentary constituencies, the officer in charge of policing the election, Superintendent Gavin Williams, said while there is no intelligence of a threat to the county or the wider region, there will be armed police on patrol throughout polling day and at the counts . He urged voters to remain vigilant, but to go about their business as normal. :: The victims of the Manchester terror attack2
Image: Election security in Wiltshire is constantly under review
The returning officer responsible for overseeing the ballot in the county, Carlton Brand, said he was “not worried” but was liaising regularly with police and that the election day plans were constantly under review. He also stressed that people should get out and vote.
Deputy assistant commissioner D’Orsi from the NPCC said: “The general threat level remains at severe, so we continue to ask the public to be alert and to report any concerns to police.
“We appreciate that these are unprecedented times and together with our partners we continue to keep communities safe.”
A former head of UK counter-terrorism once told me his job was a bit like playing the video game Space Invaders, in which the player has to zap aliens moving down the screen at ever-increasing speed. He said: “You’re busy dealing with the ones you can see in front of you, then lots more appear from nowhere.” A simple but vivid description of the scale of the threat posed to the UK public. The police and MI5 say they have 500 current joint terror investigations under way, involving around 3,000 suspects. On top of that there are another 20,000 suspects who have been investigated in the past but are no longer thought to be active, though they might still pose a risk. :: London Bridge attack: Body found in Thames1 :: The victims of the London terror attack2
You can’t arrest and prosecute them all, of course, nor can you put more than a handful under constant surveillance, but there is legislation through which they can be controlled if there is evidence to show a serious risk to the public.
None of the measures appear to have been applied to the five terrorists who carried out the three attacks on Westminster Bridge, the Manchester Arena and London Bridge, even though they were all, to varying degrees, on the radar of our security forces. In 2005, to replace emergency detention legislation introduced after the 9/11 attacks in the United States, the Labour government introduced control orders, a measure that was controversial from the start. Ten suspects released from detention in Belmarsh Prison were immediately put under the orders, which allowed restrictions on items they could possess and use, where they lived and travelled, whom they spoke to and, in some cases, involved electronic tagging.
Image: Manchester suicide bomber Salman Abedi
Critics described the orders as “prison without bars” and court challenges led to some being revoked. In 2012 the Tory government – with Theresa May as home secretary – replaced control orders with terrorism prevention and investigation measures (TPIMs). Some said they were simply the old orders under a different name, while others described them as control orders-lite. They were less restrictive and withdrew the power to force a suspect to live up to 200 miles from their home, though Mrs May reintroduced that measure in 2015. We don’t know why such legislation was not used against the killers before they struck and whether it could have prevented their attacks.
Police and MI5 are reviewing what they knew and did about Manchester Arena bomber, Salman Abedi, and the Prime Minister has said she expects a similar analysis of the London Bridge attackers. Let’s hope it’s done and is published in full. We know that Khuram Butt was under police and MI5 investigation, but his priority was later reduced.
Italian citizen Youssef Zaghba was flagged up to the UK by the Italians as a suspected jihadi, and Rachid Redouane appears to have used an immigration loophole to get into Britain after being refused asylum.
Whatever your politics – and whatever her record in slashing police numbers – no one will disagree with the Prime Minister’s words this week: “Enough is enough.”