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8 Jan, 2015 17:59

Charlie Hebdo attack 'a grave reminder of terror threat to West' – MI5 chief

Charlie Hebdo attack 'a grave reminder of terror threat to West' – MI5 chief

Wednesday's terror attack in Paris is a “terrible reminder” of Islamist extremists’ agenda of harming the West, the director general of MI5 said.

Britain’s security service chief, Andrew Parker, said he has spoken about Wednesday’s atrocity with the head of France’s intelligence agency and has offered MI5’s unwavering support.

In the wake of Wednesday's deadly attack on the office of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, MI5 officers are closely observing suspected extremists in Britain.

The UK security agency has increased its monitoring of these suspects in an effort to thwart potential copycat attacks in the UK.

On Thursday morning, Downing Street confirmed that security has been increased at strategic British ports and in UK passport control points throughout France.

Firefighters and police investigators stand in front of the entrance of the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo January 7, 2015 after a shooting. (Reuters/Charles Platiau)

In a far-ranging speech on Thursday night, Parker is expected to reference the attack on Charlie Hebdo, which left 10 journalists and two police officers dead.

“It is too early for us to come to judgments about the precise details or origin of the attack but it is a terrible reminder of the intentions of those who wish us harm,” Parker said ahead of the speech.

“As you would expect, we are offering our French colleagues our full support as they respond,” he added.

In his first address upon appointment in 2013, Parker said that Britain now faces the most serious terror threat in the UK's history.

The government has called for increased inspections of trucks, cars, and freight filtering through UK ports, according to a spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron.

It has also ordered a heightened security presence at UK passport control in Paris’ Gard du Nord Eurostar terminal.

Intelligence data relating to the two men suspected of carrying out the massacre in Paris is also reportedly being shared with UK border security officials.

Britain's Home Secretary, Theresa May. (Reuters/Luke MacGregor)

These new measures came into force on Wednesday night, and were publicly announced in the aftermath of an emergency COBRA meeting on Thursday morning, chaired by the home secretary and attended by select MI5 and MI6 officers.

COBRA is a special committee set up to coordinate a government response to national and regional crisis events.

Despite the severity of Wednesday’s attack on the office of Charlie Hebdo, Britain’s threat level remains static at “severe.” This rating is the second highest possible, and indicates that a terror attack in the UK is deemed to be “highly likely.”

Tensions are running high across France following the terror attack in Paris, and several Muslim places of worship have been targeted since Wednesday night.

France is home to Europe’s largest Muslim population, with nearly five million people practicing Islam out of a population of roughly 65 million. President Hollande has called for national unity following the tragedy.

People attend a vigil at Trafalgar Square in London to pay tribute to the victims of a shooting in Paris. (Reuters/Stefan Wermuth)