Terrorism in the United Kingdom

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Terrorist incidents map of the United Kingdom 1970-2015. Northern Ireland and London are major places of incidents. A total of 4,992 incidents are plotted.

Terrorism in the United Kingdom, according to the Home Office, poses a significant threat to the state.[1] There have been various causes of terrorism in the UK. Before the 2000s, most attacks were linked to the Northern Ireland conflict (the Troubles). In the late 20th century there were also attacks by Middle Eastern terrorist groups, most of which were linked to the Arab–Israeli conflict. Since the 2000s, most terrorist incidents in Britain have been linked to Islamic extremism.

Since 1970, there have been at least 3,395 terrorist-related deaths in the UK, the highest in western Europe.[2] The vast majority of the deaths were linked to the Northern Ireland conflict and happened in Northern Ireland.[2] In mainland Great Britain, there were 430 terrorist-related deaths between 1971 and 2001. Of these, 125 deaths were linked to the Northern Ireland conflict,[3] and 305 deaths were linked to other causes[4] – most of the latter deaths occurred in the Lockerbie bombing.[4] Since 2001, there have been almost 100 terrorist-related deaths in Great Britain, the vast majority linked to Islamic extremism.

1,834 people were arrested in the UK from September 2001 to December 2009 in connection with terrorism, of which 422 were charged with terrorism-related offences and 237 were convicted.[5]

Banned organisations[edit]

The British government has designated 58 organisations as terrorist and banned them. 44 of these organisations were banned under the Terrorism Act of 2000. Two of these were also banned under the Terrorism Act of 2006 for "glorifying terrorism." Other than the far-right neo-Nazi National Action, the other fourteen organisations operate (for the most part) in Northern Ireland, and were banned under previous legislation.[1]

International organisations[edit]

International organisations the government has designated as terrorist and banned, of whom the vast majority are of radical Islamic ideology, are:[1]

Irish Republican organisations[edit]

Irish organisations the British government has banned are:[1]

Loyalist organisations[edit]

Other British organisations[edit]


There have been many historically significant terrorist incidents within the United Kingdom, from the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 to the various attacks related to The Troubles of Northern Ireland. In recent history, the UK security services have focused on the threat posed by radical Islamic militant organisations within the UK, such as the cell responsible for the 7 July 2005 London bombings.


On 29 August 2014, the British government launched a raft of counter-terrorism measures as the terrorist threat level was raised to "severe". Prime Minister David Cameron and Home Secretary Theresa May warned a terrorist attack was "highly likely", following the coming to prominence of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).[8]

On 22 May 2017, at least 22 were killed after a bombing occurred following a concert tour by Ariana Grande in the most deadly terrorist attack on British soil since 2005.[9] After a COBRA meeting, UK Prime Minister Theresa May announced that the UK's terror threat level was being raised to 'critical', its highest level.[10] By raising the threat level to "critical", Operation Temperer was started, allowing 5,000 soldiers to replace armed police in protecting parts of the country.[11][12] BBC's Frank Gardner said that the first deployment of troops is expected to be in the hundreds.[13]

National Counter Terrorism Policing Network[edit]

The National Counter Terrorism Policing Network is the national collaboration of police forces across the United Kingdom responsible for counter terrorism operations and strategy.

State terrorism[edit]

The British state has been accused of involvement in state terrorism in Northern Ireland.[14][15][16][17]

Profile of a British Islamist terrorist[edit]

A "restricted" 12 June 2008 MI5 analysis of "several hundred individuals known to be involved in, or closely associated with, violent extremist activity" concludes that British Islamist terrorists "are a diverse collection of individuals, fitting no single demographic profile, nor do they all follow a typical pathway to violent extremism".[18]

Around half were born in the United Kingdom, the majority are British nationals and the remainder, with a few exceptions, are in the country legally. Most UK terrorists are male, but women are sometimes aware of their husbands', brothers' or sons' activities. While the majority are in their early to mid-20s when they become radicalised, a small but not insignificant minority first become involved in violent extremism over the age of 30. Those over 30 are just as likely to have a wife and children as to be loners with no ties. MI5 says this challenges the idea that terrorists are young Muslim men driven by sexual frustration and lured to "martyrdom" by the promise of beautiful virgins waiting for them in paradise.[18]

Those involved in Islamist terrorism have educational achievement ranging from total lack of qualifications to degree-level education. However, they are almost all employed in low-grade jobs.[18]

Far from being religious zealots, a large number of those involved in terrorism do not practise their faith regularly. Many lack religious literacy and could actually be regarded as religious novices. Very few have been brought up in strongly religious households, and there is a higher than average proportion of converts. Some are involved in drug-taking, drinking alcohol and visiting prostitutes. The report claims a well-established religious identity actually protects against violent radicalisation, while the influence of clerics in radicalising Islamist terrorists has reduced in recent years.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "List of proscribed terrorist groups" (PDF). Gov.uk. Retrieved 2016-01-28. 
  2. ^ a b "How many people are killed by terrorist attacks in the UK?". The Telegraph. 5 June 2017.
  3. ^ "Sutton Index of Deaths: Geographical Location of the death". Conflict Archive on the Internet. Retrieved 5 June 2017. 
  4. ^ a b Douglas, Roger. Law, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Terrorism. University of Michigan Press, 2014. p.18
  5. ^ Alan Travis. "No terror arrests in 100,000 police counter-terror searches, figures show | Law". The Guardian. Retrieved 2016-01-28. 
  6. ^ National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. (2016). Global Terrorism Database (globalterrorismdb_0616dist.xlsx). Retrieved from https://www.start.umd.edu/gtd University of Maryland
  7. ^ National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. (2016). Global Terrorism Database (gtd1993_0616dist.xlsx). Retrieved from https://www.start.umd.edu/gtd University of Maryland
  8. ^ Coates, Sam; Hamilton, Fiona (30 August 2014). "Security crackdown amid severe terror threat". The Times. Retrieved 23 May 2017. (Subscription required (help)). 
  9. ^ Dodd, Vikram; Pidd, Helen; Rawlinson, Kevin; Siddique, Haroon; MacAskill, Ewen (23 May 2017). "At least 22 killed, 59 injured in suicide attack at Manchester Arena". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 May 2017. 
  10. ^ "Latest updates as UK terror threat level raise". BBC News. Retrieved 23 May 2017. 
  11. ^ "PM Theresa May raises UK threat level to 'critical'". ITV News. 23 May 2017. Retrieved 23 May 2017. Raising the level to critical means that military personnel could be deployed to support armed police officers - part of a plan known as Operation Temperer. 
  12. ^ Alan Travis [alantravis40] (23 May 2017). "PM says Critical Threat level's Operation Temperer will use up to 5,000 troops to take over armed police patrol duties under police command." (Tweet). Retweeted by The Guardian – via Twitter. 
  13. ^ Gardner, Frank (23 May 2017). "Threat level raised: Latest updates". BBC News. Retrieved 23 May 2017. 
  14. ^ "CAIN: Issues: Collusion - Chronology of Events in the Stevens Inquiries". Cain.ulst.ac.uk. Retrieved 2016-01-28. 
  15. ^ Dr Martin Melaugh. "CAIN: Issues: Violence: Stevens Enquiry (3) Overview and Recommendations, 17 April 2003". Cain.ulst.ac.uk. Retrieved 2016-01-28. 
  16. ^ "Report of the Independent International Panel on Alleged Collusion in Sectarian Killings in Northern Ireland" (PDF). Patfinucanecentre.org. Retrieved 2016-01-28. 
  17. ^ "Village - Politics, Media and Current Affairs in Ireland - 'I'm lucky to be above the ground'". Web.archive.org. 2006-11-16. Archived from the original on 2007-11-20. Retrieved 2016-01-28. 
  18. ^ a b c d Travis, Alan (2008-08-21). "MI5 report challenges views on terrorism in Britain Exclusive: Sophisticated analysis says there is no single pathway to violent extremism". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2008-08-23. 

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