As the festive period approaches, it is important to remember that the UK faces a diverse and evolving terrorism threat. Among others, the 2016 Berlin Christmas Market and 2018 Strasbourg attacks act as a reminder of the intent of terrorist actors globally to conduct attacks targeting large crowds of people at this time of year.

Terrorist actors in the UK maintain the intent and capability to conduct attacks during the festive period, indiscriminately targeting members of the public at publicly accessible and iconic sites. The UK terrorism threat level remains at SUBSTANTIAL, meaning an attack is LIKELY.

It is highly likely that terrorist actors have the intent to conduct attacks on UK high streets such as shops, winter markets and street festivals or other events due to the high footfall and publicly accessible nature of life in the UK. Any terrorist attack conducted against a busy high street or event in the UK would likely be conducted by an individual or small cell using a low sophistication methodology e.g., a Marauding Terror Attack (MTA) using blades or blunt force weapons, or vehicles as a weapon (VAAW).

The complex nature of plotting a higher sophistication attack involving improvised explosive devices (IEDs) or firearms provides greater opportunity for UK security services to disrupt potential attacks.

There is a realistic possibility that individuals who adhere to an Incel ideology could seek to conduct attacks against shops that cater specifically to women. There is the possibility that Non-Violent Direct Action protest groups could have the intent to stage protests at high profile sites. In 2019 Extinction Rebellion activists occupied Smithfield Market in Farringdon, the UK’s biggest meat market. The protest brought business to a halt lasting 18 hours.

Staff employed by shops and organisations could pose an insider threat, including: Third party security staff and in-house staff could enable terrorist actors in the UK to access sites with malicious items by allowing such individuals to bypass any security mitigations in place at that site.

Third party vendors or in-house staff could exploit vehicular access routes to the site available to suppliers to bring in high-sophistication attack methodologies or to advance low-sophistication attack capabilities.

In 2021 a terror attack took place on Liverpool Women’s Hospital. In 2020 an Islamist terrorist conducted a bladed weapon attack outside shops on Streatham High Street. In 2019 an Islamist terrorist was given a life sentence for plotting a VAAW attack on Oxford Street, London. Also in 2019, an MTA took place on London Bridge, while three VAAW and MTA attacks took place in 2017.

Our Advice
  • Stay vigilant. Whilst everyone should enjoy the festivities, people should be alert, look out for one another, and take action if they have any concerns by reporting it to staff, security, or Police using 999.
  • Be confident and trust your instincts if something doesn’t look or feel right, report it.
  • Organisers of events or site managers have a key role to play in ensuring people’s safety.
  • Make use of low cost, simple, yet effective risk mitigation measures by following best practice advice on ProtectUK

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