MP warns of terrorism threat across Portsmouth area

George Hollingbery

George Hollingbery

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THE threat of terrorism across Portsmouth needs the attention of the UK security services in the wake of the Paris atrocities.

That is the stark message from the politician helping to lead the fight against the rise of extremism.

It comes after MI5 warned it cannot prevent all terrorist attacks happening in this country as the threat grows across the globe.

Meon Valley MP George Hollingbery, who is helping prepare a counter-terrorism bill giving the government extra powers to track extremists, said the threat to the city and its surrounding areas should not be ignored.

But he insisted residents should not worry as ‘huge efforts’ are being made on a local and national level to block any potential attack.

Speaking to The News, Mr Hollingbery said: ‘We have ferries, the naval base, we have police stations, we have public attractions, like many other cities, so it would be very foolhardy to say nothing will happen in Portsmouth.

‘That said, huge efforts are being made to ensure that an attack doesn’t happen.

‘All the security services and the government are doing their utmost to ensure the sort of atrocities we have seen in Paris will not happen here in Portsmouth.

And he added: ‘It’s likely that more attention rather than less attention by the security services will be put on what is happening in Portsmouth.

‘They are aware of the people that have left here to fight in Syria.

‘But it is very important everyone understands that I am in no way privy to what MI5 is doing and its intentions.’

Portsmouth International Port has made assurances it remains vigilant and the safety of passengers remains a top priority.

Extra security measures are not in place as the national security level has not risen above a moderate level.

A Portsmouth International Port spokeswoman said: ‘In light of the recent events in France, all staff at Portsmouth International Port continue to be vigilant in regards to security, and the safety and security of all passengers is always our top priority.’

Meanwhile, head of MI5 Andrew Parker has warned the number of Britons who have travelled to Syria was now around 600.

Four men from Portsmouth are known to have died in Syria fighting for terror organisation Isil in the past year and another jihadi from the area is still believed to be there.

Nineteen-year-old Muhammad Mehdi Hassan, a former pupil at St John’s College in Southsea and Havant College, died last year in Syria.

Ifthekar Jaman, 23, former Primark supervisor Muhammad Hamidur Rahman, 25, and Manunur Roshid, 24, from Buckland, were also killed in action.

Father-of-two Mashudur Choudhury, 31, of North End, was jailed after travelling to Syria to attend a terrorist training camp and prepared acts of terrorism.

Councillor Donna Jones, leader of Portsmouth City Council, warned: ‘There’s absolutely a risk to Portsmouth and I am concerned.

‘In Hampshire, we put in a bid for a national prevention officer working on anti-terrorism issues, but that was turned down, even though Portsmouth is the focus of the counter-terrorism unit because of the people that left the city to fight for Isil.

‘Having a naval base does make us a target.

‘But I also feel we have some of the best counter-terrorism experts in the world.

‘They are doing a good job and doing all they can to keep us safe.’

Meanwhile, security has been stepped up at the UK border with France following the attack on French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday, which left 12 people dead.

The Parisian brothers suspected of the killings fled north but were killed yesterday afternoon following a police showdown.

Condemning the Charlie Hebdo tragedy, Mr Hollingbery said: ‘It’s utterly tragic.

‘The idea of anybody with fundamental views about their religion thinking the right think to do is try suppress free speech is tragic.

‘And for 12 people to be killed for drawing cartoons and having a view is something that makes me feel deeply, deeply, uncomfortable.’

Bill would give government greater power

THE government could be granted more powers to tackle the rising threat of terrorism.

The Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill seeks to expand on what can be done to track extremists and ensure they do not pose a risk to the public.

Meon Valley MP George Hollingbery is helping to pass the bill through parliament in his role as parliamentary private secretary to Home Secretary Theresa May.

The bill proposes giving the government greater powers to electronically terminate the passports of known terrorists.

For example, a terrorist attempting to fly back to the UK would not be able to as their travel document would show up as invalid when trying to get through an airport. That person would then have to make arrangements with the government to travel back before they are prosecuted.

But Mr Hollingbery said that person would likely keep their British citizenship given the ‘sensitive matter’ over whether the government should be in a position to leave someone stateless.

The bill puts forward plans restricting where suspected terrorists should live as was the case under previous ‘control orders’ imposed by the previous government. Security firms would be able to access to the computer ID addresses of people who it suspects to be promoting extremist activity to keep track of what they are doing.

It also seeks to tighten UK border security and make it mandatory for a range of authorities to have anti-radicalisation strategies.

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