British police and special forces are reportedly on standby to tackle up to 10 simultaneous terror attacks in London, including the possible use of weapons of mass destruction.
Fearing an offensive in multiple locations by British terrorists returning from Syria, reminiscent of the attacks in Paris last summer, the UK National Crime Agency has focused on locating illegal firearms brought into the country, the Sunday Telegraph reported.
“We used to plan for three simultaneous attacks but Paris has shown that you need to be ready for more than that,” an unnamed minister was quoted in the report as saying. “We are ready if someone tries with seven, eight, nine, ten.”
An army counter-terrorism bomb disposal unit has also been preparing a team at Vauxhall Barracks in the town of Didcot in Oxfordshire to deal with a possible chemical or biological weapons attack. Meanwhile, additional regiments are on standby outside London.
In the past few months security services conducted at least two large-scale counterterrorism exercises that saw teams from the elite SAS unit dash across London to deal with mock improvised bombs — including weapons of mass destruction.
Last November’s British government Strategic Defense and Security Review noted that 10,000 troops could be deployed in response to a Paris-like attack in the UK.
Earlier this month Britain’s most senior counterterrorism police officer warned of the risk of further “spectacular” attacks by the Islamic State group as it trains its sights on “Western lifestyle” targets.
London Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley said British police carried out a record number of counterterrorism arrests last year.
But he warned that IS had broadened its focus from military and police targets, noting the Paris attacks last year when gunmen attacked bars, a concert hall and a stadium, killing 130 people.
Police have previously said they foiled seven plots between late 2014 and early 2016. Across Britain, police made a record 339 arrests related to counterterrorism in 2015, around half of which resulted in charges being brought.
Britain has suffered only one fatal incident of international terrorism since the July 7, 2005, attacks on the London transport system that killed 52 people.
In 2013, two Muslim converts butchered soldier Lee Rigby near his London barracks in broad daylight.
AFP contributed to this report.