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MI5 chief warns of extended dissident campaign

Security agency’s director general says dissident republican groups showing increased terrorist activity.

THE HEAD OF M15 has warned of an increased threat of attack from dissident republicans in Britain and Northern Ireland.

Jonathan Evans, MI5’s director general, had said last year that the threat of an imminent attack was diminished because extremists had been “forced to keep their heads down”.

Giving a speech last night to security experts, Evans said that Britain faces a growing threat of attack from dissident republicans and from Islamic militants. He said an increasing number of UK residents were being trained in Somalia by al-Shabaab, and groups could target the 2012 London Olympics.

Evans said that the recent rise in dissident activity had not been forseen, saying that dissident groups had mounted or planned 30 attacks this year so far, in comparison with 20 for the whole of 2009.

Dissident support is reported to be around 600 people, but that figure is being added to with further recruitment, the Guardian reports. Evans said there were signs of co-operation and co-ordination between dissident splinter groups.

He warned that although recent attacks have been limited to Northern Ireland, dissidents may extend their campaign. Earlier this week, Real IRA leaders warned that targets in England remain a high priority for the group.

The coalition government had promised to get rid of special anti-terror laws, but Evans urged the maintenance of those special provisions, saying:

The government cannot absolve itself of the responsibility to protect its citizens just because the criminal law cannot, in particular circumstance, serve the purposes.

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