Europe

Terror risk seen in children as young as 13, warns MI5 chief

Priti Patel addresses threat of terrorism to UK after Vienna attack

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Young people obsessed with weapons are exchanging horrific hate messages and aspirations of attacking people, director-general Ken McCallum revealed. He also admitted the threat of Right-wing terrorism has “grown and morphed quite substantially over the last five to 10 years” and is “sadly here to stay”. Of 29 late-stage attack plots disrupted over the past four years, 10 have been extreme Right-wing.

Teenagers are being swept into a “cult-like phenomenon”, and Mr McCallum suggested some may join as “rebellion as they find their way in the world”. He said yesterday the threat “has some challenging characteristics” including “frequently, obsessive interest in weaponry”.

He added: “And always, the online environment – with thousands exchanging hate-filled rhetoric or claiming violent aspirations to impress each other in extremist echo chambers.”

Mr McCallum admitted that agents discovered an extremist attracting a lot of attention online was just 13.

He said: “It may be that many of the teenagers are swept up in this toxic ideology for a period, do not then follow through to present a sharp risk.

“The youngest person that has featured in our investigations was 13. I wish we didn’t have to undertake investigations of this sort. But sadly we have to deal with the world as it is, not as we would wish it to be.”

Mr McCallum revealed the security services will double the amount of resources being deployed to tackle the threat posed by Russia, China and Iran.

He warned terrorists “will seek to take advantage” of chances to rebuild as Nato troops withdraw from Afghanistan.

He described Islamist extremist terrorism as still MI5’s “largest operational mission” and a “potent, shape-shifting threat”, while confirming that Syria remains the “overseas location with the greatest influence on the UK threat”.

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