London, United Kingdom | AFP |
Britain faces an “unprecedented” terror threat that will not subside until the Syrian civil war ends, the head of foreign intelligence service MI6 said Thursday.
In a rare speech for an intelligence chief, Alex Younger said British authorities had foiled 12 terrorist plots since June 2013 and warned that the “murderously efficient” Islamic State group was still plotting attacks from Syria, despite recent military reverses.
“The plight of the Syrians continues to worsen. I cannot say with any certainty what the next year will bring,” Younger told journalists in his first public comments since taking up the post of “C” in 2014.
“But what I do know is this — we cannot be safe from the threats that emanate from that land unless the civil war is brought to an end.
“We need to take the fight to the enemy, penetrating terrorist organisations upstream,” he added. “By that I mean as close to the source as possible.”
Younger criticised Russia President Vladimir Putin for propping up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and warned that “hybrid warfare”, incorporating cyber-attacks and propaganda, was an “increasingly dangerous phenomenon” that posed a “fundamental threat” to Western democracies.
“The connectivity that is at the heart of globalisation can be exploited by states with hostile intent to further their aims deniably,” he said.
Younger played down fears of instability in the wake of Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump, saying he expected “continuity” in Britain’s intelligence relationships with the European Union and the United States.
“These relationships are long-lasting and the personal bonds between us are strong,” he said.