Iran regime 'plots to kidnap or kill British enemies,' says MI5 chief as he warns of 'direct threats' to UK

16 November 2022, 13:07

MI5 director general Ken McCallum said the regime in Iran had plotted the assassination of at least 10 British residents deemed ‘enemies of the regime’
MI5 director general Ken McCallum said the regime in Iran had plotted the assassination of at least 10 British residents deemed ‘enemies of the regime’. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

The head of MI5 has said the Iranian regime has "ambitions" to kidnap or kill Britons it sees as "enemies", and warned of "very real" threats posed by hostile states.

Director general Ken McCallum told how the Middle East state "projects threat to the UK directly, through its aggressive intelligence services", saying at least 10 such potential threats have been seen so far this year.

In a speech from the security agency's Thames House headquarters in London on Wednesday, Mr McCallum set out in stark language the dangers faced from Russia and China, as well as Iran, describing how the UK is in a contest with "adversaries who have massive scale and are not squeamish about the tactics they deploy."

Drawing on a football analogy to hammer home his concerns, Mr McCallum said Russia "thinks nothing of throwing an elbow in the face, and routinely cheats to get its way."

"They will keep attacking us", he said, but stressed president Vladimir Putin was "not winning" the war in Ukraine.

Chinese authorities are "trying to re-write the rulebook, to buy the league, to recruit our coaching staff to work for them", while Iran "will only let people support one team and is prepared to use violence against those who don't toe the line."

"We're alive to the risk of these teams loaning players to each other, amplifying their strengths", he added as he highlighted Iran providing support to Russia by supplying drones "inflicting misery in Ukraine".

He said Iran "projects threat to the UK directly, through its aggressive intelligence services.

"At its sharpest, this includes ambitions to kidnap or even kill British or UK-based individuals perceived as enemies of the regime.

"We have seen at least 10 such potential threats since January alone. We work at pace with domestic and international partners to disrupt this completely unacceptable activity."

In a wide-ranging speech, Mr McCallum said while rising state threats are a "huge challenge", getting ahead of terror plots was "still the first thing the British public expect of us", as he told how so-called lone wolf terrorists were "fiendishly hard to detect and disrupt".

MI5 and the police have disrupted 37 late-stage terror attack plots since the start of 2017, including a further eight since Mr McCallum gave his last update on threats in July last year.

Security services are seeing growing attempts by right-wing extremists to "acquire weapons", particularly firearms, "well in advance of any specific targeting intent developing", Mr McCallum said.

There are also growing numbers of right-wing extremist "influencers" which "fuel grievances and amplify conspiracy theories."

Terrorism inspired by Islamist ideology still accounts for about three-quarters of MI5's terrorist caseload, Mr McCallum added.

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