Britain now at ‘greater risk of terrorist attack than 6yrs ago’
Anderson says the pervading sense of the country being “over the worst” when he started his role in 2011 was a “false dawn.”
Speaking to the Press Association, he said there is now a “wider range” of dangers than there has been before, and despite having the skills to fight terrorism, “we need a bit of luck as well.”
He said rather than sophisticated plots to bomb transport hubs and shopping centers, jihadists already in the UK are being groomed, often online, to carry out ‘lone wolf’ attacks using knives, machetes, and vehicles.
“What we see now is not more people being killed in the country – we’ve been both lucky and skillful in that regard over the last 10 years.
“We are seeing far more experienced terrorist fighters from this country in Syria than we ever saw in Afghanistan or east Africa or other theatres of war.
“And we are seeing a realization on the part of the terrorists that they don’t need sophisticated explosives plots to take great numbers of lives.
“People using automatic weapons, heavy goods vehicles, even knives, machetes and securing all the publicity they could possibly want from deploying relatively simple weapons such as that.”
About 850 Britons are thought to have gone to fight in Syria with jihadist groups, including Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL). More than 100 have been killed, but around half returned home after experiencing battle.
Anderson, who is to leave his role next month, said: “We’ve seen a lot of people return from Syria. About a quarter of them have been prosecuted, and only a few have engaged in terrorist activity of any kind in this country, as far as we know.
“But we have to remember the people who have returned already were not necessarily the most committed fighters and that hundreds of Britons remain in that theatre.
“When IS is defeated and loses its territory, as I’m sure at some stage will happen, they will be looking for somewhere else to go, whether that’s back to their home countries or somewhere else in the world.”
Anderson said it was down to luck and the skill of the intelligence services and counter-terrorism police that there had not been another atrocity.
He defended the government’s controversial Investigatory Powers Act, also known as the ‘snooper’s charter,’ which allows intelligence services to obtain and retain billions of pieces of personal data, phone calls, emails, text messages, and internet searches.
Only one person has been murdered in a jihadist terrorist attack in Britain since 2005. Off-duty soldier Lee Rigby was killed by two cleaver-wielding fanatics in Woolwich, south-east London four years ago.