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British Intel Chief Warns That Syrian Groups Plotting Terror Attacks in West

The head of England's domestic intelligence agency MI5 warned Thursday that extremist Islamist terror groups in Syria like ISIS are trying to direct terror attacks in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, and trying to inspire lone wolves to carry out other acts of violence.

"Although we and our partners try our utmost, we know that we cannot hope to stop everything," MI5 Director General Andrew Parker told members of Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies. He noted that authorities stopped three terror plots in the U.K. in recent months.

Parker called the murder of 12 people at the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris Wednesday "a terrible reminder of the intentions of those who wish us harm." He did not speculate on the gunmen's motive.

Parker said 600 extremists from Britain are believed to have traveled to Syria, and "a significant proportion" of those are thought to have joined the terror group ISIS. He said 20 terror plots outside the country since 2013 were "either directed or provoked" by extremists in Syria, including the shooting rampage on Canada’s Parliament Hill in October and a gunman who took hostages in Sydney in December, sparking a crisis that left two hostages dead.

While ISIS has seized large parts of Iraq and Syria and carried out shocking beheadings of Western captives, Parker said al Qaeda continues to provide a “driving force” for attacks against the West, according to a copy of his speech.

Paris Terror Suspects Radicalization Goes Back a Decade 2:10

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— Phil Helsel