Monthly Threat Update January 2021
Whilst no significant terrorist attacks took place in January 2021 in the UK, the rest of Western Europe or North America, there has been a noticeable increase in counter-terrorist activity. Within the UK, counter-terrorism police disrupted two plots, one involving a far-right suspect and one involving an Islamist suspect.
In the former, the offender attempted to utilise 3D printing technology to build a firearm, underscoring the impact that emerging technologies can have in increasing terrorist threat profiles. In the other case, the Islamist plotter had built a viable explosive device, reiterating the intent by terrorist actors to conduct bombings in the UK.
Furthermore, reports by a prison watchdog highlighted the risk of further entrenching radical views in prisoners at specialist extremist units in prisons, with imprisoned terrorist offenders attacking guards and refusing to participate in deradicalisation programmes. Even with new legislation brought in to prevent the early release of terrorist offenders, attacks by former terrorist prisoners remain a possibility, as exemplified by the 2019 London Bridge attack and the 2020 Streatham attack.
In France, police arrested several members of a suspected far-left terrorist group, with sophisticated weapons in their possession. According to local sources, these individuals planned to attack military or police targets. Whilst the far-left threat in the UK is minor compared to that in mainland Europe, increasing political polarisation raises the possibility of far-left extremism spreading in the UK.