The Ministry of Defence has given an official warning to servicemen travelling on a family holiday, saying that they must conduct a threat assessment and cover up any regiment tattoos before they travel abroad, as terrorists could be looking for military victims to attack. The alert was given to soldiers during an official MOD briefing and follows the attempted kidnap near a base in Norfolk a few weeks ago. The warning was extended to the Army, RAF and Royal Navy.
Speaking to the media, one soldier said that he thought it was ‘terrible’ that troops who put their lives at risk in the most dangerous war zones are unable to “relax on a beach in the Costas”
Three years ago, soldier Lee Rigby was tragically murdered by extremists who spotted that he was wearing a Help for Heroes t-shirt near his barracks in London. According to intelligence sources, popular resorts such as Tenerife and the Costa Del Sol could be at risk of attack. The internal memo was released by the Ministry of Defence under the Freedom of Information Act. The memo warned that terrorists could target hotels to kill/injure/take hostage soldiers and their families. A source said that squaddies are generally easy to spot as they are physically fit, have tattoos of their regimental badges and may be louder than others. All of this makes them an ‘easy target’ which is why they are being briefed to be ‘sensible’ and not let their guard down.
One ex-soldier said that whilst troops have braved the threats whilst they fought in Afghanistan and Iraq, they are now being targeted on beaches across the Mediterranean, so they need to be vigilant and aware of their own personal safety, both at home and abroad. The ex-soldier said that in particular, Armed Forces personnel are easily identified by ‘the way they walk and the tattoos they bear’.
Last week, troops in Aldershot were warned not to leave their base wearing their uniform because of fears that extremists could kidnap or kill them. The two men who attempted to kidnap a member of the RAF regiment at RAF Marham in Norfolk are still being looked for. Previously, the soldiers in Aldershot were told that it was ‘good public relations’ for them to be seen around town in their uniform, but most of the soldiers quickly realised they were making themselves out to be an easy target and stopped. One soldier said that they had been receiving a lot of conflicting advice- such as it’s fine to wear uniforms off base, but vary their travel routes to work so that they don’t set patterns.
Already, some of the most popular holiday resorts are on a high terror alert. France has been on high alert since the IS attacks in Paris last November, with security stepped up even further following the murder of 85 people in Nice last month. Spain has around 12 million UK visitors per year and is also on high alert. Turkey was also sent into chaos following an unsuccessful coup last month. Last year, 30 British people were gunned down in Tunisia. Egypt has also had similar problems- the list goes on.
The former commander of the British Forces, Col Richard Kemp said that for many years, British soldiers have lived under the threat of being attacked- first by Irish terrorism and now by the Islamic State, so they know how to take steps to prevent it. He said that people in the services should not panic and the warning should not stop them leaving their bases. He added that it is well known that extremists are targeting the areas surrounding military bases, so this is the primary threat.
Are you in the Forces? Will this warning stop you travelling abroad?