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UK Counter-Terrorism Strategy CONTEST23 Updated

Suella Braverman has announced CONTEST 2023, a strategy aimed at preventing terrorist attacks in the UK.

The home secretary has said the type of risk “continues to evolve and is increasing” and that technology, which includes online security, is one of the biggest areas of focus.

The Government currently considers the risk of attack to be substantial, meaning an attack is likely, but this is the third of five rungs on the ladder — below severe and critical.

CONTEST23 outlines how the Government reacts to terrorism events and has been updated for the first time in five years.

Originally published 20 years ago, the aim of the UK’s long-running counter terrorism strategy, CONTEST, is to reduce the risk from terrorism to the UK, its citizens and interest overseas.

Based on four themes – Prevent, Pursue, Protect and Prepare – the last formal update was made in 2018. The UK has since seen nine declared attacks and 39 disrupted attacks of terrorism.

It will have implications for the security service MI5, which is responsible for protecting the UK against threats to national security, and also the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism, which co-ordinates the Government’s response in case of a terrorist incident. Counter-terrorism laws are enforced by the police.

CONTEST 2023 will shape how the Home Office reacts to and prepares for terrorism events and many details are unsurprisingly under wraps.

However, a key focus is understood to be technology and safeguarding internet use.

The review states: “Terrorists exploit technology to hide their networks, spread their propaganda, and enable their attacks. Technology is a critical enabler of our counter-terrorism efforts, where careful and proportionate use of cutting-edge techniques can make our response more efficient and effective.”

The Home Office has outlined Islamic terrorism as the primary domestic threat, as it accounted for 67 per cent of attacks in 2018, saying it comprises “about three-quarters of MI5 caseload, and 64 per cent of those in custody for terrorism-connected offences”.

Ms Braverman also said that Northern Ireland-related terrorism remains a “significant threat”, with some dissident groups looking to carry out attacks.

There is also worry around the incel movement — an online sub-culture of involuntary celibate men who have carried out acts of violence and even murders against women. This was the background of the Plymouth shooting in 2021.

In addition, the report notes that four of the nine declared terrorist attacks in the UK since 2018 were perpetrated by serving or recently released prisoners.

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