Ben Wallace in Downing Street
Islamic State

Defence Secretary: IS Remains 'Most Significant Terrorist Threat' To UK

Ben Wallace said the "hard fight" against so-called Islamic State is "by no means done". 

Ben Wallace in Downing Street

The so-called Islamic State (IS) group remains the "most significant terrorist threat" to the UK, the Defence Secretary has warned. 

Ben Wallace said the group's potential resurgence should "concern us all", despite it having lost control of territory it once held in Syria and Iraq.

Mr Wallace told MPs that RAF aircraft have struck 40 targets as part of operations against IS, also referred to as Daesh, in the last 12 months.

However, he said the "hard fight" is "by no means done". 

In a statement to the Commons, Mr Wallace said: "These targets range from caves occupied by Daesh terrorists in remote areas of northern Iraq, to weapons caches, bunkers and training camps – and included the destruction of two Daesh strong points engaged in close combat with Iraqi security forces."

But he added: "The threat from Daesh, I’m afraid, remains.

"Their poisonous ideology continues to endure, their pernicious influence continues to spread.

"Conflict, economic collapse and inequality is creating new opportunities that they will continue to exploit, to grow and recruit."

He continued: "The prospect of their resurgence should concern us all. As long as they are able to operate over there, they can hit our citizens over here.

"Daesh retains its intent to carry out and inspire attacks against us, and remains the most significant terrorist threat to the United Kingdom and our interests."

Typhoon on Operation Shader (Picture: MOD).
An RAF Typhoon refuels during a mission against IS targets in Iraq or Syria (Picture: MOD).

Mr Wallace said Iraqi secrurity forces still require assistance, with the UK continuing to provide training and mentoring, plus air support.

He described the mission as a "long-running effort" and said since the beginning of this year, he has authorised 10 air strikes on Daesh alone. 

Shadow defence secretary John Healey reaffirmed Labour’s commitment to the UN-sanctioned global coalition against IS and welcomed its success.

But he warned: "It is also clear that Daesh is stepping up its insurgent attacks and must be at risk of it gaining a foothold south of the Euphrates in the area controlled by the Syrian regime, backed by its Iranian and Russian allies."

Mr Wallace also estimated 360 people from the UK who travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight for the group remain in the region, either at large or in detention. 

Operation Shader - the code name for the UK's contribution to the mission against IS in Syria and Iraq - is based at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus. 

Last week, the Ministry of Defence released details of recent RAF air strikes against IS in Iraq

Cover image: Defence Secretary Ben Wallace (Picture: PA).