LONDON—Terrorist plots averted by U.K. authorities over the past two years have increasingly involved would-be attackers trying to get firearms to carry out Paris-style mass shootings, a senior police officer said Monday.
“Of the attack planning plots that we have disrupted since 2013, nearly half of these have involved a firearms angle to some degree,” said Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, the U.K.’s top counterterrorist policeman, told reporters.
Wary of illegal weapons falling into the hands of terrorists, British authorities are trying to cut what they say is a link between organized criminals and Islamic extremists by calling on informants to come forward. Groups like Islamic State have recruited successfully from Europe’s prisons and among former criminal gang members, potentially opening a new gateway to heavier weaponry like automatic rifles and submachine guns toted by bank robbers and drug dealers.
In April, a group of young Muslim men from a tough West London housing project were sentenced to lengthy prison terms for planning Islamic State—inspired assassinations on the streets of the capital using a silencer-equipped pistol and a motorbike as a getaway vehicle.
While Britain’s strict gun-control laws have helped in the past to protect the country from the kind of Islamist-inspired random shooter attacks that struck Paris in November last year, Mr. Rowley warned the landscape was changing amid a spike in gang-related gun crime in major U.K. cities.
“We cannot be complacent,” said Mr. Rowley, who was speaking at the launch of a nationwide campaign to encourage members of the public with knowledge of illegal weapons to inform the police.
Andrew Parker, the head of MI5, the U.K.’s domestic intelligence agency said Monday in a speech to the Royal Society that since June 2013, Britain’s police, intelligence and security services have disrupted 12 terrorist plots directed against the country. Mr. Parker warned that Islamic State posed the most acute terrorist threat to Britain and would continue to do so for many years to come.
“ISIL is an enduring threat, here to stay, and is at least a generational challenge,” said Mr. Parker, referring to Islamic State by an alternative acronym.
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UK Cop Warns of Gun-Linked Terror Plots – Wall Street Journal