UK spies point to more diverse terror threats

The trouble with reporting on the activities of the security and intelligence agencies, or on any matter dealing with national security, is that by definition it is difficult to establish the veracity of what they claim, especially when they press for more money.

There seems no doubt, however, as Theresa May, and Charles Farr, her senior counter terrorist adviser at the Home Office, emphasised earlier this week, that threats to Britain's security are getting more diverse, and therefore more difficult to pursue.

The government's latest annual report on CONTEST, the name given to its counter terrorism strategy, referred to al-Qaida affiliates operating in ungoverned, or badly governed, spaces in northern Africa, from Somalia to the east and Mali and Nigeria to the west.

It referred to Syria where anonymous security sources were quoted as saying up to 100 British-based jihadists had gone to fight. "As and when UK residents return here there is a risk that they may carry out attacks using the skills that they have developed overseas", said the CONTEST report.

Sir Jonathan Evans, the head of MI5 who is to retire in April, wisely said last year: "We will have to manage the short-term risks if there is to be a longer-term reward from the Arab Spring."

He added for good measure: "In back rooms and in cars..

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