The potential return of radicalised jihadis from the Middle East to Britain’s shores was “directly responsible” for the decision to raise the terror threat level, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has said.
He said the prospect of hundreds of British nationals, some with terrorism training, coming back to wreak atrocities was one of the most serious threats to homeland security.
Opening a debate in the Commons covering Ukraine, the Middle East, North Africa and security, Mr Hammond said an “arc of instability” had emerged across the area.
He told the House: “This summer has seen a range and scale of threats to international, and particularly European stability, that if not unprecedented represent a highly unwelcome escalation from the post-Cold War norm.
“And alongside them a sharp escalation in the level of homeland security threat.”
He also warned that left unchecked the Islamic State – with its aim of forming an Islamic caliphate – “could transform swathes of the Middle East into a haven for international terrorism”.
He went on: “Not only are their actions and poisonous ideology abhorrent to our values and our principles, indeed to the values and principles of all decent people including the overwhelming majority of Muslims, but they also represent a direct threat to Britain’s national security.
“In seeking to establish their extremist state, ISIL is already seeking to use the territory they control as a launchpad from which to attack the West, including the UK.”
Citing the examples of the attack on the Jewish museum in Brussels, the beheadings of US journalists and the threat to Yorkshire-born hostage David Haines, he added: “ISIL will not hesitate to attack Western citizens wherever they have the opportunity to do so.
“The potential return to these shores of hundreds of these radicalised jihadis, some of whom will have undergone training in the conduct of terrorist atrocities, represents one of the most serious threats to our national security and was directly responsible for the decision to raise the threat level from terrorism from substantial to severe.”