Britain's post-7/7 hero to take over top spy job



London: Britain has appointed a veteran spy-master as the new boss for its domestic spy agency MI5.

Andrew Parker, 50, currently the deputy director of the agency commonly known as MI5, will take over as the director-general once Sir Jonathan Evans steps down next month. The Cambridge-educated spook led the security services' response to the 2005 London attacks.

In February 2005, Parker became the head of the Security Service's international terrorism division. Just a few months later, on July 7 he had to deal with the London bombings. MI5 was accused by some critics of failing to keep track of Mohammad Sidique Khan, who masterminded the plot, despite of being aware that he had been involved in jihadist activities.

A year later, his teams stopped the attempt to blow up 10 passenger jets flying from the UK to the US and Canada using liquid explosives.

MI5 officers were able to foil one of the most audacious conspiracies put together by Islamists as they had installed surveillance equipment in the home of one of the suspects, a British Pakistani, after secretly entering the home.

His 30 years of service service saw him work in counter-espionage missions in the Middle East and Northern Ireland counter-terrorism operations.

"It is a great honour to be appointed Director General of MI5. I am extremely proud of the extraordinary work that the men and women of MI5 do to keep the country safe in challenging circumstances. I look forward to leading the Service through its next chapter," Parker said.

Announcing the appointment, UK Home Secretary Theresa May said Parker had a "wealth of experience and knowledge". "Under his leadership the Service will continue to stay ahead of global and domestic threats to our national security and further develop its reputation as one of the world's most effective security agencies," she added.

Described as a keen bird-watcher and a wildlife photographer - a hobby he shares with James Bond creator Ian Fleming, Parker holds a degree in Natural Sciences from Cambridge University, and is married with two children.

His appointment continues the Security Service's tradition of choosing its head from within, as was the case with the last four director-generals.

Parker will officially take over on April 22. Earlier this month, it was announced that Sir Jonathan Evans was stepping down after six years as head of MI5.

"He brings his deep knowledge and experience of all aspects of the Service and its operations to this role and will be a great leader of the Service, working collaboratively with its partners. I look forward to working with him in his new role," Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary, said.

PTI