Vehicle terror attack fears raised
Fears have been raised that Islamist extremists could launch opportunist attacks in crowded spaces over Christmas following three incidents in France in the past four days.
A van burst into a Christmas market in the western city of Nantes on Monday night, injuring 10 people before the driver reportedly began stabbing himself.
On Sunday night, in the eastern city of Dijon, a driver reportedly shouting "God is great" in Arabic ran down several people, injuring 13 before coming to a stop.
Those incidents came after an attacker knifed three police in Tours on Saturday before he was shot dead by one of the officers. The French government has denied any links between the attacks but announced plans to further raise security in public spaces, including the deployment of around 300 soldiers.
British security services have been in close contact with the French, according to sources quoted in The Times.
A senior Whitehall source told the newspaper the police focus, until the incidents in France, had been on terrorists opening fire with weapons in public space but now vehicle-based attacks had moved to the top of the agenda.
The Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre raised the threat level in August against a backdrop of increasing concerns over hundreds of aspiring British jihadis travelling to Iraq and Syria to learn terrorist ''tradecraft''.
Fears of a terrorist attack on Britain's streets have heightened in the wake of the rise of Islamic State (IS), the extremist group that has taken over large swathes of Iraq and Syria and attracted thousands of foreign jihadists to its cause, including more than 500 Britons.
IS spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani recently urged supporters to use all means, including their own vehicles, to try to kill westerners. A new Counter-terrorism and Security Bill, containing a range of powers including new orders that can block suspected British fighters from returning to the UK, was introduced to Parliament last month.