London (CNN)The new head of MI5, the UK's domestic security service, has warned that nearly 30% of the major terror plots it has disrupted at a late stage since 2017 have been from far right extremists.
30% of UK terror plots disrupted by MI5 were far right, says security chief
Ken McCallum said that the pan-European threat from the far right was increasing with "bitty, but meaningful international connectivity."
In his first engagement with reporters since taking the job in March, McCallum said far-right extremism was not on "the same scale as Islamist extremist terrorism. But it is growing: of the 27 late-stage terrorist attack plots in Great Britain disrupted by MI5 and counter-terror policing since 2017, eight have been right-wing extremist."
He added that was not the case for the four years before 2017, and that "quite a few young people [are] attracted to this ideology, which does tend to suggest this threat will be with us for some years to come."
Yet he added that the far right, while showing signs of international links, was not yet "a kind of coherent global movement," like al Qaeda or ISIS "where you have a sort of unifying purpose and single organization that pools things together."
Individuals, "often acting in comparative isolation," were often fueled by "social processes, to do with individual's own needs and self view," McCallum said, and the far-right ideology was often "tacked on after someone has moved in that direction."
"These stories are not terribly coherent either," he said. "If you look either at right-wing extremism or Islamist extremism, it's not a coherent ideology that really stands up to much scrutiny. People are nonetheless, sadly, attracted to the seeming certainty that they seek to provide."
Last year, a 23-year-old member of banned neo-Nazi group National Action was sentenced to life after admitting to plotting to kill his local lawmaker with a machete and making a threat to kill a police officer, according to PA news agency. Jack Renshaw's plans were revealed by a whistleblower, who was at a meeting in a pub when Renshaw announced his intentions in July 2017, a year after Labour Member of Parliament Jo Cox was murdered by a far-right extremist.
Around a dozen people were convicted of terrorism-related offences in 2019, according to anti-racism charity Hope Not Hate, including a Durham teenager who was planning attacks against local synagogues.
The MI5 chief, who lists hiking and being an active father as his interests, said the growing threat was replicated in Europe and the United States. "Essentially all the services with which we partner closely have some version of this."
McCallum, a Glaswegian maths graduate who headed both the inv