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Jewish and police safety reviewed

Chief constables across the country are reviewing how to strengthen the protection of their officers and the Jewish community in the light of the Paris terrorist attacks, Britain's chief counter-terror police officer said.

Assistant commissioner Mark Rowley, the national policing lead for counter-terrorism, said the attack on a kosher supermarket in the French capital and anti-semitic rhetoric from extremists had led to a "heightened concern" about the risk to the Jewish population in the UK.

The "deliberate targeting" of police in recent terrorist attacks has also raised fears about the dangers faced by frontline staff, he said.

"The global picture of terrorist activity does give us heightened concern about the risk to the Jewish community in the UK," Mr Rowley said.

"We are seeing continuing anti-Semitic rhetoric from extremists and attacks on this community in France and elsewhere.

"In addition to our existing security measures, we are in dialogue with Jewish Community leaders about further actions that we will be taking, including more patrols in key areas.

"We are also considering what further measures we might put in place to enhance the security of police officers, given some of the deliberate targeting of the police we have seen in a number of countries across Europe and the world.

"Chief constables across the country are reviewing how to strengthen the protection of their officers from such attacks. Our men and women on the frontline are used to confronting risk and danger and are well-trained in how to protect the public and themselves."

Speaking at Scotland Yard's headquarters, Mr Rowley said an "unprecented" number of terrorist attacks had been thwarted in the UK in recent months, as he revealed the number of terror arrests rose by a third last year.

"As the determination, intent and capabilty of terrorist groups pushes harder....we have to push harder back and change our stance in how we deal with those issues," Mr Rowley said.

"We mustn't, and we can't, change the stance of policing in a way that undermines our ability to protect the public. This is not about officers being afraid to leave police stations or never going out on their own.

"It is about how do we assess the patrols officers are on, the incidents we send officers to, how we assess their day to day help feel secure."

Mr Rowley said the "severe" terrorist threat level facing Britain was of "grave concern" and had led to the "massive" number of arrests in the last year.

There were 327 arrests for terrorist offences in 2014 - a 32% increase on the previous year.

"We haven't seen anything falling back in the last year," he said.

"The volume of activity continues, the volume of arrests continues, month in, month out. We've never seen the level of arrests we've made in the last year or so for a sustained period before.

"The sustained pace of arrests and disruption, we've not seen before. Likewise the number of plots we've disrupted in recent months is unprecedented.

"We can't do this on our own. If we're to succeed in the fight against terrorism then information from members of the public, from all communities, about suspicious behaviour they've seen, about people of concern who are being radicalised, anything like that people musn't hesitate and come forward to us."

Asked whether an impending terrorist attack was "inevitable" in the UK, he replied: "I'm not going to be defeatist and I won't use a word like that.

"Clearly, it's very challenging when the threat is assessed as highly likely. From my perspective, we will do everything we possibly we can to prevent it happening."

It comes as faith leaders joined forces today to condemn the recent terrorist attacks in France and show a "united Britain of religions".

Senior Muslim, Jewish and Christian figures held an "interfaith unity gathering" in central London in response to the shootings by Islamic extremists, which claimed 17 lives over three days in the French capital - 12 at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, including two police officers, four people at a kosher supermarket, and a third police officer at a petrol station.

Around 20 prominent religious figures met at the Islamic Cultural Centre at Regents Park Mosque, in what organisers described as "an act of solidarity".

Dr Shuja Shafi, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: "Nothing offends us more than the insult, hurt and dishonour this attack has brought on our community and faith."

After the event, Senior Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner said: "Today was to send a message about Britain - a united Britain of religions. We will not have division here, we will continue to work together and any attempt to divide us will not work."

Copies of the first Charlie Hebdo magazine published since the shootings also arrived in the UK today, met by queues of hundreds of people outside newsagents and bookshops.

Demand has been high for the magazine's new issue, which carries a front-cover cartoon of a crying Prophet Mohammed, now seen as a symbol of freedom of speech.

Some people queued for eight hours overnight outside the French Bookshop in London's South Kensington, which sold out of copies just over an hour after going on sale.

The shop's owner, Robert Zaigue, insisted he was not worried about being targeted by Islamic extremists after selling the magazine.

He said: "If they want to blow us up, then blow us up. Fortunately we live in the free world and we should appreciate that.

"Those people don't scare me. We're not going to let them scare us."


From Belfast Telegraph