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Police

Two security reviews to look into Westminster terror attack

Two reviews into security at Parliament will take place following the terror attack at Westminster, Speaker John Bercow has told MPs.

An independent review will look into how the perimeter fence surrounding the Parliamentary estate is secured after Khalid Masood, armed with a knife, ran into New Palace Yard and murdered PC Keith Palmer last Wednesday1. Mr Bercow also revealed there will be a second externally-led review into how Parliament responds to major incidents following the attack, in which four people were killed2.

Image: Armed police at the Carriage Gates entrance to the Houses of Parliament

Speaking in the Commons, he said: “As would be normal after such events, we are seeking to make sure that any lessons are learned, through two reviews. “The Lord Speaker and I are commissioning an external independent review of how the perimeter of the Parliamentary Estate – including outbuildings – is secured and protected, to produce a preliminary report by the end of April.

“The two clerks are commissioning an externally-led lessons-learned review of the operation last week of Parliament’s Incident Management Framework, to report by the end of June.”

Mr Bercow offered tributes to the bravery of PC Palmer, who died after trying to stop Masood from entering Parliament during the attack. He said: “Members will also be aware that 2.40pm today marks a week on from the shocking events of last week, and our thoughts will be in particular with the Metropolitan Police as they mourn their colleague PC Keith Palmer.”

Image: Police officers hold flowers on Westminster Bridge

Police officers held a minute’s silence outside New Scotland Yard on Wednesday, a week after the terror attack. Acting Met Police Commissioner Craig Mackey said: “This afternoon is about remembering the victims of last week’s events.

Image: Faith Leaders head up a vigil including members of the public and police officers

“Our thoughts, our prayers, go out to everyone who was affected by the events last week.

“I would urge you, if you get time, to go on to the bridge, talk to Londoners, talk and get a feel for this great city and how it’s come together in responding to these events.”

Image: People hold a banner on Westminster Bridge

Prince William paid tribute to PC Palmer as he laid a wreath in his honour at the National Memorial Arboretum, near Lichfield, Staffordshire. The Duke of Cambridge bowed his head in respect after placing the wreath on a metal bench at the foot of a traditional blue police lamp.

Image: Prince William lays a wreath in memory of PC Keith Palmer at the National Arboretum

A hand-written note read: “For PC Keith Palmer and all those who have served our community so valiantly; your legacy is our way of life . William.”

Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge will join families of the victims of the terror attack next Wednesday at Westminster Abbey for a “Service of Hope”.

References

  1. ^ murdered PC Keith Palmer last Wednesday (news.sky.com)
  2. ^ in which four people were killed (news.sky.com)

More than 400 former jihadi fighters back in Britain, say security …

UK authorities are facing an increased terror threat from battle-hardened fighters returning from Mosul and other conflict zones in Iraq and Syria. Security sources have told Sky News more than 400 former fighters are now believed to be back in Britain. The authorities believe there is a growing risk the UK could suffer the kind of mass gun and bomb attacks seen in France and Belgium recently, as many returning fighters will have been trained in the use of weapons and the construction of improvised explosive devices. It is a serious, two-pronged challenge for the police and security services, who are already working flat-out to counter the threat from homegrown lone-wolf extremists, like Khalid Masood, who launched last week’s deadly attack on Westminster.

:: The battle for Mosul: A timeline1

Former Scotland Yard Specialist Firearms Officer and author Tony Long said combating an attack launched by a well-trained returning jihadist could be a tough prospect. He said: “These are combat-hardened soldiers . They might not be trained in the way that NATO might train their soldiers but they’ve seen more close quarter conflict and more urban fighting than probably most members of the British Armed Forces and you have to respect that.

“Of course they’re bringing that knowledge back with them to the UK and it’s very very difficult because of the legal restrictions that are put on the security services and the police to actually monitor all of these people.”

To date, only a fraction of those returning from the battlefields of Syria and Iraq have been prosecuted, as authorities need enough evidence to put before the courts and often returning fighters go to great lengths to cover up their overseas activities. Imran Khawaja, 29, from west London, is currently serving 12 years in prison after he faked his own death in Syria in an attempt to sneak back into the UK undetected. Khawaja had joined a militant group with links to so-called Islamic State while overseas. He was pictured posing with the severed heads of Syrian soldiers during his six months in the country. He was arrested as he tried to re-enter the UK through the port of Dover and later admitted preparing for acts of terrorism, attending a camp, receiving training and possessing firearms.

Security sources said they could not be certain that Khawaja would have launched an attack back home, but the pattern of returning jihadists posing a major risk to national security is well established. More than a decade ago, groups of al Qaeda trained terrorists were responsible for mass carnage in Europe and the United States. Those who launched the devastating attack on the London transport system on 7 July 2005 had attended al Qaeda training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Some of the terrorists who launched a similar failed attack on London on 21 July 2005 had received weapons and explosives training, as had some of the plotters who planned to blow up airliners with liquid bombs in 2006. :: Traumatised children of Mosul2

Security expert Professor Tahir Abbas from the Royal United Services Institute said: “The police and security services are certainly preparing for all eventualities, because in Britain, we’ve had our lessons from the past. “These returning fighters pose a number of threats in relation to security here. “They’ve been through a lot of very traumatic conflict and engagement, often involved in street-to-street fighting.

“Now, having made their way back to Britain, they pose a particular threat because of their capacity – and perhaps they’ve been instructed to return, hold fire and wait for the go ahead to launch attacks.

“They are likely to be traumatised, but also extremely experienced and well trained individuals who pose a serious risk.” With the growing threat from returning fighters, emergency services have been increasing their training to respond to gun and bomb attacks. On March 19, more than 200 police officers carried out a training exercise on the River Thames, where police firearms teams boarded a boat in a training scenario involving dozens of hostages. The UK government has provided millions of pounds in extra funding to help Chief Constables across country to increase their firearms capability to respond to a terrorist attack.

References

  1. ^ :: The battle for Mosul: A timeline (news.sky.com)
  2. ^ :: Traumatised children of Mosul (news.sky.com)

Home Secretary Amber Rudd: Give security services access to WhatsApp

TECHNOLOGY companies must allow the security services access to messages in times of emergency, Home Secretary Amber Rudd has said. It follows reports that Khalid Masood, the man responsible for the terrorist attack in London on Wednesday, used the WhatsApp service to send someone a message just three minutes before he mowed down 40 people on Westminster Bridge. The inbuilt encryption of WhatsApp means police and MI5 have reportedly not seen the contents of that message.

Doing the rounds on the Sunday morning political TV shows, the Home Secretary said technology firms must build in back doors to allow security services to eavesdrop.

Rudd also insisted WordPress, and Google, who run YouTube, must realise that they are now publishers rather than simply technology companies, and so should do more to tackle extremist videos and blogs.

Although the Home Secretary said she would like companies to do this voluntarily and independently, she refused to rule out changing the law to force their hand.

Rudd told BBC One s Andrew Marr Show: It is completely unacceptable, there should be no place for terrorists to hide.

We need to make sure that organisations like WhatsApp, and there are plenty of others like that, don t provide a secret place for terrorists to communicate with each other.

It used to be that people would steam-open envelopes or just listen in on phones when they wanted to find out what people were doing, legally, through warrantry.

But on this situation we need to make sure that our intelligence services have the ability to get into situations like encrypted WhatsApp.

Asked if she opposed end-to-end encryption on Sky News s Sophy Ridge on Sunday, Rudd said: End-to-end encryption has a place, cyber security is really important and getting it wrong costs the economy and costs people money.

So I support end-to-end encryption, it has its place to play.

But we also need to have a system whereby when the police have an investigation, where the security services have put forward a warrant signed off by the Home Secretary, we can get that information when a terrorist is involved.

She denied what she was describing was incompatible with end-to-end encryption, adding: You can have a system whereby they can build it so that we can have access to it when it is absolutely necessary.

Rudd said she was calling in a fairly long list of relevant organisations for a meeting on the issue on Thursday, including social media platforms.

I would rather get a situation where we get all these people around the table agreeing to do it, she told Marr.

I know it sounds a bit like we re stepping away from legislation but we re not.

What I m saying is the best people who understand the technology, who understand the necessary hashtags to stop this stuff even being put up, not just taking it down, but stopping it being put up in the first place are going to be them.