Five things that have changed in the fight against terrorism since 7/7

Fifty-two people died in the London bombings on July 7,2005. Credit: PA

Ten years after the London bombings, in which 52 people died, five things have changed in the fight against terrorism since 7/7.

  • 7/7 'prevented bigger attacks'

Stricter safeguards introduced after the 7/7 bombings helped prevent a more ambitious terrorist plot to blow up passenger jets, according to one of Britain’s top spy chiefs.

In rare public comments on the eve of the 7/7 anniversary, MI5’s Director-General Andrew Parker said "a step-change in the nation’s counter terrorism defences" helped thwart a 2006 plot to blow up aircraft travelling from the UK to North America with liquid bombs. “I’m not sure we would have detected it without the uplift that followed 7/7", Parker said.

  • The rise of so-called Islamic State

So-called Islamic State is the group that is thought to now pose the greatest threat to Britain’s national security – not al-Qaeda. This battle of the brands matters, because although both groups have similar ambitions, ISIS prefers to motivate ‘lone wolf’ attacks by so-called ‘self-starters’. British spies believe al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, one of the terror network’s most active franchises, maintains the ambition of launching attacks on aircraft.

  • The female extremist

The apparent lure of Islamic State - offering somewhere to live as well as to fight - has altered the demographics of jihadi recruits. Ten years after four young men blew themselves up on the London transport network, today’s extremists are increasingly likely to be female. Last year, British police made an arrest a day as part of counter-terrorism operations; of them, roughly one in nine were women or girls; around one in six were under 20 years old.

Last week, a family from Luton travelled to Syria to live under so-called Islamic State - they range in age from a one-year-old baby to a 75-year-old grandfather.

A British family of 12 from Luton believed to have fled to Syria have joined Islamic State. Credit: Bedfordshire Police
  • The marauding gunman

Once it was the threat of crude devices planted by Irish terrorists in cars, pubs or shopping centres that most concerned the security services. The rise of al-Qaeda brought with it heightened concern about more sophisticated plots targeting transport systems.

But ever since the attacks in Mumbai in 2008, the threat posed by co-ordinated, marauding gunmen has worried British police. Officers from Scotland Yard prepared for precisely that scenario in a terror training exercise held in central London last week.

A mock terrorist firearms attack was staged in London last week Credit: Met Police
  • The importance of 'Prevent'

In the ten years since 7/7, the British government has put more resources into ‘Prevent’ - the anti-radicalisation programme that attempts to stop people being tempted by violent extremism. Put simply, it attempts to put a roadblock on the route towards radicalisation right at the start - but given current trends, it is seen by many as an expensive failure.

Earlier this year, Dal Babu, a former senior police officer at Scotland Yard, described ‘Prevent’ as a “toxic brand” - and claimed that most Muslims believe the scheme is simply a tool for spying on them.