Election over but UK still faces jihadist threat
London- A cloud of uncertainty hangs over the United Kingdom after tight elections returned Conservative Party leader Theresa May to power, although without an overall parliamentary majority.
Britons voted June 8 amid tightened security just five days after three terrorists attacked in central London, running down pedestrians on London Bridge before indiscriminately stabbing revellers in Borough Market. Eight people were killed.
The election campaign was dominated by security and counterterrorism issues. Parties suspended national campaigning twice following the Manchester and London attacks. Reports that many of the attackers, including 22-year-old Manchester Arena bomber Salman Abedi, were known to police raised questions about Britain’s counterterrorism policies.
Officials raised the terror threat in the UK to “critical” after the May 22 Manchester bombing, which killed 23, meaning that soldiers were deployed on the streets and an attack was imminent. The threat level was reduced to “severe” — an attack was “highly likely” — a few days later.
May, the prime minister, said that “enough is enough” following the London attack, pledging to clamp down on Islamist extremism. A few days later, the former home secretary said she would be prepared to rip-up human rights laws that impeded more robust terror legislation.
It was a pledge she returned to after announcing her intention to form a government with the help of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party. However, with a narrow parliamentary majority, a resurgent opposition Labour Party and criticism from her own backbenchers, many questioned how May intends to push through her legislative agenda and how long she can remain at the head of a Conservative Party that is notorious for ridding itself of weak leaders.
Britain is facing an unprecedented jihadist threat, senior police officers acknowledged, requiring understaffed police and security officers to innovate.
“In nine weeks, we’ve had five plots foiled and three successful attacks. This is completely different to anything we have seen for a long time,” London Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley said after the London attacks.
A report by Britain’s Times newspaper stated that intelligence authorities have identified 23,000 jihadist extremists in Britain as potential terrorists. About 3,000 were considered direct threats and are either under investigation or being actively monitored. The remaining 20,000 have featured in previous inquiries and are categorised a “residual risk” but not actively monitored.