Conflict in Gaza could inspire terrorism in UK, says MI5 chief

MI5 director-general Ken McCallum (Yui Mok/PA)
MI5 director-general Ken McCallum (Yui Mok/PA) MI5 director-general Ken McCallum (Yui Mok/PA)

The conflict in Gaza could inspire terrorist acts in the UK, the head of MI5 has said.

At least 1,400 people were killed, many of them civilians, and thousands more injured in Hamas’s attack on Israel on October 7.

More than 2,778 Palestinians have died as Israel launched air strikes on Gaza in response and cut off fuel, water, food and medical supplies from entering the cramped territory, which is home to more than two million people.

MI5 director-general Ken McCallum joined his counterparts from the Five Eyes intelligence services – the UK, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – at an event hosted by the FBI on Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters, Mr McCallum said MI5 is paying “very close attention” to events in the Middle East.

He said: “There clearly is the possibility that profound events in the Middle East will either generate more volume of UK threat and/or changes in shape in terms of what is being targeted, in terms of how people are taking inspiration.

“Terrorists can draw inspiration not just from things they see happening inside the UK but things they see happening in the Middle East or on the continent or elsewhere.

“So we would be silly not to be paying very close attention, and we are.”

Mr McCallum said MI5 was particularly focused on Iran, with concerns the nation may be emboldened by the conflict in Gaza.

“We have obviously been concerned about Iran’s behaviour in the UK for a long time,” he said.

“In particular, the past 18 months or so have been a particularly intensive phase of Iran-generated threat on UK soil. Plainly, events in the Middle East sharpen the possibility that Iran might decide to move into new directions.

“I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that could include the UK, but we are already operating at a high level of Iran-generated threat.

“For the most part, the activity we’ve seen backed by Iran in the UK for the last 18 months or so has been targeted at the regime’s own internal enemies, dissidents, Farsi media organisations. Not exclusively, but predominantly.

“Clearly one of the things on our minds is, might the Iranian targeting intent shift in response to events elsewhere.”

His comments come after police in Belgium shot dead a suspected Tunisian extremist accused of killing two Swedish football fans on a street in Brussels on Monday.