LONDON - Islamist militants are less capable of organizing plots on the scale of 9/11 but small groups of jihadists returning from Syria pose a grave threat to British security, the country's two most senior counter-terrorism officers said on Thursday.
Every year, Britain's security services are faced with at least one plan to carry out an attack on the level of the July 7, 2005 suicide bombings on London, known as the 7/7 attacks, which killed 52 commuters, the officers said.
While the al-Qaida leadership in Pakistan and Afghanistan can no longer coordinate such attacks on the level it once could, the threat is now more complex with more autonomous militants just as dangerous.
"There is no doubt the big sophisticated 9/11 type plot, 7/7 type plots, are much harder to organize," said Stuart Osborne, Britain's Senior National Coordinator for Counter Terrorism.
"They did need a lot of overseas direction and I think it would be fair to say that some of the al-Qaida leadership have sort of said that's good if you can do it, but if not, any attack, whatever you can, at whatever size is useful."