Prime minister David Cameron and home secretary Theresa May led calls for a fightback against extremism on Monday (29), after the mass shooting in Tunisia that killed at least 38 people, a majority of them British tourists.
As new laws came into effect on Wednesday (1) requiring schools, local authorities, prisons, police and health bodies to have “due regard to preventing people from being drawn into terrorism”, Cameron spoke of an “unshakeable resolve” to “stand up for our way of life”.
“We must be stronger at standing up for our values – of peace, democracy, tolerance, freedom,” he said.
The prime minister urged British Muslims who may have reason to believe their family members are being radicalised to report their suspicions. “Anyone who is worried about that needs to act, because otherwise it could end in the way that it has in the last few days,” Cameron said.
In a statement in the Commons on Monday, he said Britain must “raise our game” and ensure that Muslims “want to integrate” into British society.
His comments came ahead of new legislation under the Prevent duty, introduced as part of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015, which comes into effect this month.
Security minister John Hayes said: “We have seen all too starkly and tragically the dangers of radicalisation and the devastating impact it can have on individuals, families and communities.
“The new Prevent duty is about protecting people from the poisonous and pernicious influence of extremist ideas that are used to legitimise terrorism.
“Protecting those who are vulnerable and at risk of radicalisation is a job for all of us. The new duty will make sure key bodies across the country play their part and work in partnership, as part of our ‘one nation’ approach to bring the country together to tackle extremism.”
On a visit to Tunisia, the home secretary pledged to “defeat those who undermine our freedom and democracy” and vowed that “the terrorists will not win”.
Later, May, as well as ministers from Tunisia, Germany and France, laid a wreath at the beach to honour those killed by Tunisian gunman Seifeddine Rezgui at the tourist resort of Sousse.
A Downing Street spokeswoman said on Tuesday (30) that the number of Britons confirmed killed by the gunman has risen to 21 from 18. The Islamic State (IS) terror group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Injured British nationals were flown to the UK on board a Royal Air Force C17 aircraft from Monastir airport in Tunisia on Monday, as tour operators brought back tourists who wished to return home from that country.
Britain’s international terror threat is currently set at “severe,” its second highest level, and which means an attack is “highly likely.”
Cameron also warned on Monday that IS militants based in Syria and Iraq were planning specific attacks against Britain and posed an existential threat to the West.
“It is an existential threat because what is happening here is the perversion of a great religion and the creation of this poisonous death cult is seducing too many young minds,” Cameron told BBC radio.
“There are people in Iraq and Syria who are plotting to carry out terrible acts in Britain and elsewhere and as long as ISIL (Islamic State) exists in those two countries, we are at threat,” said Cameron.
Writing in The Daily Telegraph newspaper, Cameron signalled that he wanted authorities to take a tougher line against Muslim extremists in Britain and do more to challenge what he said were their unacceptable views.
“We must be more intolerant of intolerance – rejecting anyone whose views condone the Islamist extremist narrative,” Cameron wrote.
On Tuesday, as Eastern Eye went to press, police and emergency services took part in the biggest counter-terrorism drill held in London to date, with about 1,000 officers testing their response to a potential militant attack on the capital.
The two-day exercise was planned before the carnage in Tunisia, following attacks in Paris in January in which gunmen killed 17 people in a rampage, a goverment spokesman said.
Most of the drill took place out of public view in several locations across London. But reporters saw about half a dozen armed police officers, some clutching shields, entering a disused underground station in central London to hunt down “terrorists” as gun shots rang out on Tuesday morning.
Other personnel could be seen treating injured “victims” on a pavement.
Deputy assistant commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police, Maxine de Brunner, said the scale of exercise, was larger than anything undertaken previously in the capital.
It involved London’s transport authority, local government and the Ministry of Defence officials and also saw the government’s emergency Cobra committee convened.
The drill took place a week before the 10th anniversary of the suicide bombings on the city’s transport network by four British Islamists which killed 52 people.