Britain’s home secretary Theresa May is going to chair a Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms meeting crisis meeting — known more commonly as COBRA — imminently to discuss how the UK government will respond to the devastating attacks in Paris.
COBRA meetings are usually tabled when events abroad could have major implications for Britain.
But during May’s interview on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, the home secretary revealed that the SAS — one of Britain’s special forces units — are already prepared for coordinated and multiple-shooting attacks on urban areas in the UK.
Here are the key excerpts from May’s interview with Andrew Marr on Sunday (emphasis ours):
What we have done over the years since the Mumbai attack is ensured that we have the capability, that our police have the capability. They have changed their training so that they can go and deal with these incidents. And there are tried and tested arrangements in place to provide military support.
What we have seen from Daesh is that in the past there has been a focus on perhaps individuals conducting attacks, encouraged to conduct attacks. What we have seen from the attack in Paris is a coordinated attack, a planned attack, so an attack on a larger scale.
Since the Mumbai attack in 2008 we have been building our capability here, building the capability of our police to be able to react to a firearms attack of that sort. We have been increasing the ability of the emergency services to save lives in high-risk conditions. But we will now review that and see if there are any further lessons we need to learn.
She also added that the COBRA meeting will discuss whether security measures need to be tightened in Britain despite insisting that Syrian refugees coming to the UK are already being thoroughly screened.
These included attempts to conduct Mumbai-style gun attacks on British streets, blow up the London Stock Exchange, bring down airliners and murder a British ambassador and military servicemen, she added.
In Sunday’s Andrew Marr Show she did warn, however, that Britain remains on the second highest threat level:
[The Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre which is run by MI5] has kept the threat level at severe. That still means a terrorist attack is highly likely.
We’ve been at that threat level for over a year now and of course we operate at that threat level and since the attacks [in Paris] that took place on Friday and there’s been an increase in peace presence on the streets and at some events.
Our border force have increased checks they’re making at the border, more screenings of freight vehicles and other vehicles as well. People going through our ports will see a greater police presence.
A group of seven attackers who broke off into teams of three carried out bombings and shooting attacks across Paris on Friday evening, killing at least 127 people and injuring more than 300, the Paris prosecutor said Saturday. The terrorist group ISIS (also known as the Islamic State) has claimed responsibility for the attacks.
The terrorists attacked the Bataclan theatre, a popular concert venue in the 10th Arrondissement, the Le Cambodge restaurant and Le Carillon bar in the same area, and Les Halles shopping centre. The Stade de France, where French President Francois Hollande was watching a football match, was also attacked.
World leaders are now gathering in Turkey for the G20 summit. Although the G20 usually focuses on economic issues, the fight against terrorism was already expected to be on the agenda.
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