A counter-terror expert has said that officers have an “unenviable job” filtering through all the names of individuals who could potentially pose a terror threat.
Speaking to Julia Hartley-Brewer after yesterday’s terror attack in Westminster, Simon Trundle said officers faced the task of looking into thousands of names to identify which ones were “actively planning” an attack.
“Are we carrying out the right sort of controls on the people allowed to come here and get British citizenship?” asked Hartley-Brewer, after it was revealed that the suspect is thought to be Salih Khater, a man of Sudanese origin with a British citizenship.
“We face a tremendous task,” said Trundle.
“There are so many individuals that could be added to the list for a preliminary investigation - they’re in their thousands.
“What we’re trying to do is filter down to try and find the few that are actively planning, the few that are connecting and making networks, the few that are determined enough and have resources to carry an attack.”
He added that, when counter-terror investigators do foil a potential attack, it often goes with little media fanfare.
“It is an unenviable job, when they get it right it hardly makes the news, it [news stories] just talks about people arrested,” he said. “When they get it wrong, it all goes wrong.”
He said yesterday’s attack, in which three people were injured, was “very ineffective”, and said police would be working to establish the chain of events in the run up to the attack.
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“A lot of it is investigatory,” he explained. “Where did the car come from, where did it pause, what was the driver looking at, did the driver panic when he saw flashing lights, is that what triggered him to carry out - and I don’t mean this for the sake of the cyclists - a very ineffective attack?”
He said investigators would also be looking at a motive. “What was his motivation, was someone in the passenger seat? If it was jihad, was there someone there with him?”
Hartley-Brewer questioned whether it would turn out to be a case of a “lone wolf… slipping through the net”.
“We find out often these people have been radicalised for months on end,” she said.
Police have not yet released any information on a motive or the personal beliefs of the suspect, who is believed to still be in custody.