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Why we need to stay alert to the terror threat as the UK reopens

The UK has faced a persistent threat from terrorism over the past decade, with recent attacks focusing on busy public spaces. In June 2020, this threat was highlighted once again by an attack in a public park in Reading. This was the first reported terrorist event in the UK since the beginning of the pandemic.

This article appears in the Conversation.

In June 2020, this threat was highlighted once again by an attack in a public park in Reading. This was the first reported terrorist event in the UK since the beginning of the pandemic.

Until recently, the coronavirus had reduced opportunities for terrorism. The lockdown had seen UK high streets and public spaces almost deserted, with most non-essential businesses forced to close, lowering the number of potential terrorist targets.

However, lockdown and social distancing measures are now being relaxed, and the government is promoting greater use of open public spaces to try to kickstart the economy while keeping transmission of the virus low.

Earlier this month, it announced new laws to relax outdoor drinking and dining rules. Bars, cafes, restaurants and entertainment venues can apply more easily for “pavement licences” to place tables and chairs in public spaces outside their premises.

While this response is likely to benefit businesses and the economy, there’s a real risk these new outdoor arrangements may become attractive targets for terrorists.

The UK’s recovery strategy mentions redesigning public spaces to make them “secure”, but only focuses on the risk of the virus itself. Security also needs to take into consideration the threat posed by terrorism.

Rather than relying on improvised explosive devices or firearms, recent terror attacks have often been “low-tech”, requiring very little planning and featuring weapons that are easily accessible. For example, vehicles were used as weapons by driving them into crowded spaces in attacks in LondonBarcelonaBerlin and Nice over the past few years.

The challenges of disrupting terrorist plots involving vehicles are considerable. Vehicles are common, inexpensive to obtain and easy to manoeuvre towards crowds. This attack method is likely to pose the greatest threat during the COVID-19 recovery...

Dr Alasdair Booth, a Visiting Fellow in Counter-Terrorism Protective Security and the Built Environment within the School of Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering, discusses why we need to stay alert to terror threats as the UK reopens in the Conversation.

Read the full article here

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