Undercover SAS officers to patrol UK Christmas markets amid terror attack fears

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SAS officers will be mingling undercover among Christmas shoppers across the UK in a reinforced bid to safeguard people if is there is a terror attack.

According to Daily Star Online , the officers will have hidden pistols and emergency medical kits which will aim to protect and save any victims.

Security sources told the news outlet the troops will be in disguise at popular locations such Winter Wonderland and the West End in London, major high streets and oter Christmas markets around Britain.

Terrorists have struck during the festive season on a number of occasions.

In Berlin 12 people were killed in 2016, while five died in Strasbourg back in 2018.

Vehicle barriers have been erected around Christmas markets in Manchester
Vehicle barriers have been erected around Christmas markets in Manchester (Image: Lee McLean / SWNS)

Fears that another terror attack is imminent comes after knifeman Usman Khan killed two people during a terror attack at Fishmongers’ Hall in London Bridge last month.

The ISIS fanatic stabbed to death Jack Merritt, 25, and 23-year-old Saskia Jones before he was shot dad by armed police.

A security source said: “You have the SAS working in a covert capacity at these key locations,” our source said.

“They will react and respond accordingly should something happen.

“They are there to identify any hostile reconnaissance or suspicious behaviour.”

The country’s terror threat level remains at substantial – which is the middle of the five-tier system.

It was reduced to “severe” just weeks before Khan struck and means an attack remains “likely” amid the ongoing threat from lone wolf terrorists and ISIS.

Experts said that terrorists consider it a major coup if they can successfully  carry out an attack during the Christmas period.

The 'rings of steel' protects some markets
The ‘rings of steel’ protects some markets (Image: Lee McLean / SWNS)

Professor Anthony Glees, from the University of Buckingham, told Daily Star Online: “The markets are seen as iconic sites to attack by jihadists because they’re about Christmas and Christianity, they are markets that attract a lot of people and they are usually in sites that are hard to defend and usually undefended.”

Security expert Will Geddes added: “Attacks at Christmas are symbolic, but it’s also due to the open crowded public spaces.

“They can target people who are distracted, who are preoccupied with Christmas shopping, and where it may be dark.

“And we have to remember the one thing about any terrorist or criminal, they will always want it to be easy and simple.”

Usman Khan was a convicted terrorist out on licence
Usman Khan was a convicted terrorist out on licence (Image: West Midlands Police/AFP via Get)

The SAS also have their so-called Blue Thunder helicopter on high alert amid the possibility of a terror attack.

The force of 70 elite troopers are on standby 24/7 and can reach the scene of an attack within minutes.

The unit was formed following the Paris attacks in 2015 and will use a Eurocopter AS365 Dauphin to deal with high-threat situations in theUK.

It is believed the Blue Thunder squad is a branch of the 22nd SAS regiment and the helicopter is piloted by members of 658 Squadron of the Army Air Corp.

Cambridge graduate Jack Merritt, 25, was stabbed to death by convicted terrorist Usman Khan
Cambridge graduate Jack Merritt, 25, was stabbed to death by convicted terrorist Usman Khan (Image: PA)

Blue Thunder landed on London Bridge after the horrific terror attack and nearby Borough Market in 2017.

Khan was out on licence when he struck after being  released from jail for terror offences.

The revelation sparked  fears about more than 67 other terrorists currently out on licence.

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said there will be restrictions on convicted terrorists including a ban on them attending Christmas markets and crowded locations.

Saskia Jones was stabbed to death by Khan
Saskia Jones was stabbed to death by Khan

He told the Daily Mail: “There will be tougher travel restrictions, stopping them going to crowded places such as Christmas markets.

“It’s important that we give the highest degree of confidence to the British people that they are protected from the people who want to inflict terror.”

The National Police Chiefs Council will offer free counter-terrorism training course online which will teach what to do in a major attack and how to spot suspicious behaviour.

Written by: Lorraine King

First published 15.12.19: https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/undercover-sas-officers-patrol-uk-21104706


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