MI6: Alex Younger named as new head

Alex Younger
Image caption Alex Younger will bring "a wealth of relevant experience" to the role, the foreign secretary said

The next chief of the Secret Intelligence Service, otherwise known as MI6, has been named as Alex Younger.

The 51-year-old career SIS officer, who oversaw MI6's work on counter-terrorism in the run-up to the London Olympics, will take over the post next month.

He succeeds Sir John Sawers, who is stepping down as chief of the agency.

Announcing the appointment, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said Mr Younger would bring "a wealth of relevant experience".

Mr Younger, who joined the SIS in 1991, has overseen MI6's intelligence operations across the world for the past two years.

Previously, he had been posted in Europe and the Middle East, serving as a senior MI6 officer in Afghanistan.

'Array of threats'

He said: "I am delighted and honoured to become chief of SIS and lead one of the best intelligence agencies in the world.

"Our dedicated staff work tirelessly against an array of threats that this country faces. They do so in close partnership with both MI5 and GCHQ with whom I am looking forward to co-operating closely."


Image copyright PA

Frank Gardner, security correspondent, BBC News

This will be seen as a safe choice by insiders in Britain's intelligence community. Alex Younger has already spent the last two years running the operational side of MI6's work around the world.

Although there were at least two other close contenders from within Whitehall, Mr Younger's appointment will raise no eyebrows there.

He does face numerous challenges: frustrating any attack plans against the West by jihadists in the Middle East and elsewhere, monitoring and containing Iran's nuclear ambitions, and trying to second guess Russia's next moves in Ukraine.

The heads of MI6 and the other two intelligence agencies, the Security Service MI5 and GCHQ, were recently grilled by MPs on why, with such expanded budgets, they have failed to anticipate such major events as the 9/11 attacks or the Arab Spring.

MI6 has also had to defend itself against accusations it has colluded with countries that extract information from detainees by torture.

In a biography provided by the Foreign Office, Mr Younger is said to enjoy music, sailing and mountaineering. He is married with children.

Mr Hammond added: "The work of SIS is world-class, and its operation vital to the safety and security of the United Kingdom.

"Alex brings a wealth of relevant experience including his work in Afghanistan and helping keep the country safe during London 2012 Olympics."

Sir John announced in June that he would be stepping down from the role. He said: "I'm delighted that my colleague and friend is taking over from me.

"He has played a vital part alongside me in modernising SIS and ensuring that the Service is in the best possible shape to play our part in defending the country's security and our values."

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