Number of Islamic radicals feared to be in UK revealed by EU counter-terrorism chief
According to Gilles de Kerchove, the UK has identified between 20,000 and 25,000 fanatics.
MI5 considers 3,000 of them “worrying,” and 500 are under “constant and special attention,” the chief said.
By comparison, France is thought to be home to 17,000 radicals, and Spain around 5,000.
“I wouldn't like to put a concrete figure on it, but (in Europe) tens of thousands, more than 50,000,” de Kerchove told Spanish newspaper El Mundo.
“We must select those who are really worrying and the most dangerous, and they should be monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
This comes as security sources told Sky News that the threat posed to the UK by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) jihadists returning home is not as severe as initially thought by police and intelligence services.
On the other hand, there is an unprecedented terrorist threat from home-grown terrorists who have been encouraged or instructed to carry out attacks.
“As IS comes under pressure in Raqqa, as they did in Mosul, the impetus to go and join them has started to dissipate, but their message remains potent for those willing to listen.
“Part of the problem is that propaganda has democratized the threat so that self-starters and lone actors can view material that is pumped out encouraging them to get out with knives or vehicles to launch these low-tech attacks.”
More than 800 Britons have travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight with Islamic State.
But the number of people who have returned is actually significantly less than expected.
While 350 fighters have already made their way back home, up to 200 are believed to have been killed while fighting in the Middle East, while many of the others fear prosecution.
The source said: “We now think that fewer are likely to return from Syria and Iraq than had previously been feared, partly because they are likely to have been killed in the fighting as it escalates and partly because those that survive are likely to seek refuge in other countries.
“The threat from those who have never left the UK for Syria and Iraq is the predominant threat – they are still highly motivated and increasingly they are taking direction from individuals in the Middle East.”