herald

Tuesday 22 August 2017

UK and US embassies 'prime targets for terror strike here'

A young girl leaves a message of support on the base of the obelisk on London Bridge, after an unknown 21 year-old man left a box of tape, sticky notes and marker pens with an invite to write a message, following the terror attack in which eight people died. Photo: Nick Ansell/PA Wire
A young girl leaves a message of support on the base of the obelisk on London Bridge, after an unknown 21 year-old man left a box of tape, sticky notes and marker pens with an invite to write a message, following the terror attack in which eight people died. Photo: Nick Ansell/PA Wire

The British and US embassies would be the likely targets of any Islamist terror attack in Dublin, a respected British security expert has said.

Raffaello Pantucci, director of international security studies at the Royal United Services Institute, said it was symbols of the United States and the UK that would be targeted here if such an attack were to take place.

However, he said that while terrorist incidents were "inherently unpredictable", he would be very surprised if there was an incident in Ireland similar to the atrocities in London and Manchester.

"That's because the nature of the threat you have is not that substantial," he said.

Radicalised

"The numbers of people you've had going off to fight, the numbers of radicalised people - they're just nowhere near the volumes you're talking about.

"Now, within that could you get someone who's alone inspired to attack? Yes, you could.

"It would have to be a random individual because you couldn't see groups deciding to make an active choice of targeting Ireland.

"You have to conceptualise in a different way - maybe they could strike something in Ireland that's symbolic of the UK, or symbolic of the United States."

Mr Pantucci pointed to an embassy as such a target.

"You're striking the 'evil foreigner', but you can't get into the UK so you strike them somewhere else," he said.

However, he added that it was more likely that someone would travel from Ireland to mainland Britain to carry out an attack because it would have more impact.

When asked by the Herald if security had been increased in the wake of the Manchester and London Bridge attacks, neither the British nor US embassy would comment.

"We always review our security, but we can't discuss that," a spokesperson for the British embassy told the Herald.

"As a matter of long-standing policy, we do not comment on security matters," a US embassy spokesperson said.

Both embassies are within 1km of each other in Ballsbridge.

A garda spokesman declined to specify if the number of officers has been increased in the area in the wake of the UK attacks.

"The threat level in this jur- isdiction remains unchanged where an attack is possible but not likely," he said.

He added that the situation was always under review.

Mr Pantucci, who wrote the book We Love Death As You Love Life: Britain's Suburban Terrorists, also said it was "disgraceful" that the impact of Brexit on the border was not being discussed seriously.

"No one is talking about it sensibly. No one has offered a solution to this because the economic damage if you have a hard border would be very high, but on the flip side the fact is you're leaving an open border," he said.

Disaster

"There is no serious engagement with the issue and then the impact it could have on the peace deal, on the Good Friday Agreement and everything else."

He predicted that if a soft border remained, at some point it would be used to attack the UK.

"It will become a major issue, because someone will get through and there will be a disaster crisis response," he said.

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