Nine terrorist attacks have been prevented in the UK in the past year, the director general of MI5, Andrew Parker, has told Theresa May’s government.
He revealed the information during a presentation to cabinet on the terrorist threat facing the country.
“There have been five attacks that have got through – four of which are related to Islamist terrorism,” May’s official spokesman told reporters after the briefing.
He said the prime minister responded by thanking MI5 for its “tireless work” in trying to “combat the unprecedented terrorist threat”.
May’s team was also briefed on the changing form of the terrorist threat facing the UK, he said.
“Cabinet ministers heard that while Daesh [Islamic State] had suffered major defeats in Iraq and Syria this did not mean the threat is over, rather it is spreading to new areas, including trying to encourage attacks in the UK and elsewhere via propaganda on social media.”
He said the home secretary, Amber Rudd, told her colleagues that the pace of attack planning had increased significantly this year, and insisted that ministers were putting pressure on social media companies to remove terrorist material and progress was being made.
Rudd highlighted Facebook’s claim that 83% of Isis and al-Qaida content posted on its platform was being identified and removed within an hour.
“She stressed, however, that there is much more for social media companies still to do,” the spokesman said.
The presentation to the cabinet came as Rudd prepared to make a statement in the House of Commons in response to a report from David Anderson, the government’s reviewer of terrorism.
Anderson has reviewed the role of the security services in the four terrorist attacks in the UK this year, including those at the Manchester Arena and London Bridge.