Terrorists hiding among migrants, UK defence chief warns

Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach says Britain must rethink how it 'manages identity'

Sir Stuart Peach with Prime Minister Theresa May

Islamic State militants are "hiding in plain sight" among the refugees displaced by fighting in Syria and Iraq, the head of the British Armed Forces has warned.

In a lecture at the Royal United Services Institute, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach said that IS members are trying to blend in with migrants and refugees attempting to resettle in Europe.

With Iraqi forces and Kurdish militias eating into territory previously occupied by IS militants, jihadists are fleeing their former strongholds in increasing numbers, the Daily Telegraph reports.

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"They are losing territory rapidly," Peach said. "Foreign fighters are being killed and displaced but they are moving in migrant flows, hiding in plain sight."

With some migrants "deliberately trying to destroy their identity documents" either to obscure their country of origin or disguise jihadist affiliations, Peach said that Britain needs to think about how it "manages identity", he said.

Peach's comments echo similar remarks made by Nato's top military commander earlier this year. US general Philip Breedlove told the US Congress in May that IS militants were "spreading like a cancer" among the migrants flowing into Europe.

As IS continues to be pushed back, Peach warned that the global reach of the internet made the risk of a network of "copycat" terror cells springing up across the world a very real possibility.

"The Chinese state has accepted they have a problem. This is not now a localised phenomenon, it is now a wider phenomenon," he said.

He added that the internet is proving a boon not only to global terrorism, but also to Russia's programme of "political subversion".

"It's not a secret that Russia is using cyber as part of state power," he said, adding that Britain had now entered a "strategic state-on-state era of competition" with foreign powers such as Russia and China.

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