London- The UK is likely to face an Islamist terrorist threat for the next 30 years, the former head of MI5 has warned.
Jonathan Evans, who stepped down as director general of the spy agency in 2013, described the threat as a “generational problem” which will take decades to tackle.
Lord Evans also claimed the Westminster Bridge attack earlier this year may have had an energizing effect on extremists.
Meanwhile, he said he would be “very surprised” if Russia had not tried to interfere in the UK’s last general election.
Lord Evans, who now sits in the House of Lords as a crossbench peer, told BBC Radio 4’s Today program: “I think on the terrorism side we are at least 20 years into this. My guess is that we will still be dealing with the long tail in another 20 years time.
“I think this is genuinely a generational problem. When I left MI5 in 2013 if I had been asked I would have said that I thought that we probably were over the worst of the al-Qaeda threat.
“That may have been true but of course not the development and emergence of ISIS with the same ideology and many of the same people.
“I think that we are going to be facing 20, 30 years of terrorist threats and therefore we need absolutely critically to persevere and just keep doing it.”
The former spy chief said that the London bombings in July 2005 triggered an “energizing effect on the extremist networks in the UK” and that he thought there would be a similar feeling following the Westminster Bridge attack earlier this year.
He said: “We did see a huge upsurge in threat intelligence after July 7 and I suspect that there’s the same sort of feeling in the period after the Westminster Bridge attack – that a lot of people who thought ‘I’d like to do this’ suddenly decided ‘yep, if they can do it, then I can do it’.”
Lord Evans also stressed the importance of the UK being prepared to defend against cyber attacks, especially as the nation’s infrastructure and people’s daily lives become increasingly reliant on the internet.
He said: “I think we are going to have to think very carefully about our dependence on the internet particularly on what’s called the internet of things, that as our vehicles, as our air transport, as our critical infrastructure is resting increasingly on the internet we need to be really confident that we have secured that because our economic and our daily lives are going to be dependent on the security that we can put in to protect our infrastructure from cyber attack.”