The head of Britain’s foreign spy service MI6 has singled out ISIS and Russia as threats to domestic security.
In a speech to selected journalists this morning Andrew Younger said the scale of the terrorism threat to the UK is “unprecedented.”
He said UK intelligence and security services had disrupted 12 terrorist plots since June 2013 and many of the threats came from ungoverned spaces in the Middle East – namely Iraq and Syria.
Mr Younger also warned that “hybrid warfare,” which includes cyber-attacks and subverting democracy was becoming an “increasingly dangerous phenomenon.”
“The risks at stake are profound and represent a fundamental threat to our sovereignty,” he said. “They should be a concern to all those who share democratic values.”
In his first public speech since taking up the post of “C”, he also warned that Russia’s alliance with President Assad in Syria risked alienating people who needed to be brought onside if extremists were to be defeated.
“We cannot be safe from the threats that emanate from that land unless the civil war is brought to an end,” he said.
Mr Younger said the ISIS had exploited the situation in Syria to fortify its stronghold in the region and wage a war on the West. He added that it had a “highly organised external attack planning structure” which was plotting attacks against the UK and its allies “without ever having to leave Syria.”
The head of MI6 has also warned that Russian actions in Syria will have a tragic outcome and could put the security of Britain at risk.
“Russia seeks to make a desert and call it peace,” he said of the country’s bombing of Aleppo. “The human tragedy is heart-breaking. I believe the Russian conduct in Syria, allied with that of Assad’s discredited regime, will, if they do not change course, provide a tragic example of the perils of forfeiting legitimacy.
“In defining as a terrorist anyone who opposes a brutal government, they alienate precisely that group that has to be on side if the extremists are to be defeated…
“The facts on the ground are staggeringly complex. The plight of Syrians continues to worsen. I cannot say with any certainty what the next year will bring. But what I do know is this: we cannot be safe from the threats that emanate from that land unless the civil war is brought to an end.”
Younger is a career spy, having joined MI6 in 1991 after a short career in the British Army. He spent time working in the Middle East and Afghanistan and was involved in the security for the 2012 London Olympics.