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Counter-Terrorism Chief Says U.K. Faces Serious Risk of Attack

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Sept. 17 (Bloomberg) -- The U.K. faces a continuing “serious risk” of a lethal terror attack, said the head of the nation’s domestic intelligence agency, citing concerns about soon-to-be-freed prisoners who are “committed extremists and likely to return to terrorist activities.”

In a speech late last night released by the Home Office today, MI5’s Director General Jonathan Evans said officers are concerned that a number of people, convicted after the Sept. 11 attacks, are now leaving jail after serving their terms. The security service hadn’t expected dissident republicanism to grow as it has in Northern Ireland, he also said, adding that the agency is anxious about Somalia and Yemen.

“Counter-terrorist capabilities have improved in recent years, but there remains a serious risk of a lethal attack taking place,” Evans said in London. “I see no reason to believe the position will significantly improve in the immediate future.”

Evans also said there shouldn’t be a “zero tolerance” attitude toward the terrorist risk.

“In recent years, we appear increasingly to have imported from the American media the assumption that terrorism is 100 percent preventable and any incident that is not prevented is seen as a culpable government failure,” he said.

“This is a nonsensical way to consider terrorist risk and only plays into the hands of the terrorists themselves,” he said. “Risk can be managed and reduced, but it cannot realistically be abolished, and if we delude ourselves that it can, we are setting ourselves up for a nasty disappointment.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Kitty Donaldson in London at kdonaldson1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net.

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