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THE new head of the North West Counter Terrorism Unit (NW CTU) is urging Cumbrians to support police in the fight against terrorists.

Detective Chief Superintendent Tony Mole said recent events in Algeria and Mali had shown the threat from international terrorism was ‘very real and has in no way dissipated’.

In a week-long campaign starting today, the NW CTU is encouraging people working and living in the North West to be vigilant and report any suspicious or unusual behaviour to the Confidential Anti-Terrorist Hotline on 0800 789 321.

DCI Mole said: “A number of my own officers are currently supporting national colleagues following these tragic events in North Africa.

“We have seen in the past how global events impact on local communities and it is critical that we all do our utmost to combat the threat from terrorism both at home and abroad.”

Police said public vigilance was vital in the fight against terrorism because people knew their communities and could tell when something seemed out of the ordinary.

Officers are urging people to ‘trust their instincts’ and pick up the phone when they see anything suspicious as they could be providing the ‘crucial piece of information’ that was needed.

Detective Chief Inspector Lee Johnson, of Cumbria Police, is the county’s lead officer for serious and organised crime and terrorism.

He said: “There are individuals within our communities who seek to exploit vulnerable people for extremist purposes and we all have a responsibility to stop that from happening.

“We need the help of the public in identifying those people, so if you are concerned about an extreme and unexplained change in someone’s behaviour, please contact the Anti-Terrorist Hotline in confidence.

“We have tried and tested working practices in place that not only seek to detect and prosecute those involved in terrorist activity, but that also protect individuals who may be vulnerable to exploitation by extremists.

“In the recent past we have seen a number of instances in the region of individuals researching or planning acts of terrorism in the safety of their own home - we need the public to help us to identify those individuals.”

The campaign is the latest phase of work by the NW CTU to raise public awareness about the threat from terrorism.

Police said it is not linked to any current terrorist threat.