Category Archives: Terrorism

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The Resistible Rise Of Far-Right Extremism

Since the infamous retweeting of Britain First, the extreme far-right is dominating the news once again and we are now marking the anniversary that neo-Nazi organisation National Action was banned in the UK. Inevitably, they tried to circumvent the ban by rebranding themselves, so in last 12 months another two white supremacist groups have followed suit, Scottish Dawn and NS131.

The ban (proscription) is a tough piece of legislation; it means these groups are officially designated terrorist organisations meaning membership, support and even promotion of them is a crime and we have seen an increase in arrests for alleged links to neo-Nazism since the original ban was put in place. In an ideal world, we could prevent people from joining or supporting such terrorist groups and so in the UK we have a strategy designed to do exactly that.

Developed in the aftermath of the 2005 London bombings, the Prevent Strategy initially focused on tackling recruitment by al Qaeda, the influence behind if not the actual masterminds of, the 7/7 attacks, but even in those early days many of our conversations about terrorism invariably turned to the extreme far-right.

It is a natural detour to take, with Islamist extremists sharing many traits with their far-right cousins: supremacy, misogyny, homophobia, virulent anti-Semitism and an immersion in conspiracy theories. The pathways to radicalisation can also be identical, involving similar combinations of social and emotional factors.

For many years, the most significant terrorist attack by a neo-Nazi was in 1999, by the London nail bomber David Copeland. He wanted to start a ‘race war’ by predominantly targeting members of London’s black and Bangladeshi communities in the hope of triggering a backlash of violent reprisals. Copeland is currently serving life imprisonment, having murdered three people, including an unborn baby, in a series of bomb blasts in Soho, Brixton and the East End.

Far-right convictions have continued steadily: Martin Gilleard, Nathan Worrell, Neil Lewington, Terence Gavan, Darren Tinklin, Ian Davison, Ian Forman, Zack Davies, Garron Helm and Thomas Mair, to name just a handful.

But it was on 29th April 2013, when a Ukrainian national called Pavlo Lapshyn took the life of an innocent grandfather in Birmingham, Mohammed Saleem, that the national discourse on neo-Nazi terrorism saw a sharp refocus. At the time of the incident there was no obvious motive or suspect (which would explain the disparity of there being no emergency COBR meeting convened) and so it appeared to be a brutal and senseless murder rather than a political act of terrorism. This is in contrast to the murder of Lee Rigby a few weeks later in which the killers gruesomely broadcast their motives and identities to the world from the scene of their attempt to behead him in public.

It wasn’t long before Lapshyn resurfaced, targeting more members of the Muslim community by planting bombs at Mosques in Tipton, Walsall and Wolverhampton. He was caught after thousands of hours of CCTV footage was painstakingly examined and during his interview Lapshyn confessed to killing Mohammed Saleem. Eight weeks after his tragic murder, Mohammed Saleem was now recognised as the victim of an act of terrorism.

This horrific tragedy was the catalyst that sparked an even more concerted impetus by Government, Police and Prevent to tackle neo-Nazism. Both James Brokenshire and Theresa May (then Security Minister and Home Secretary respectively) visited the family of Mohammed Saleem, as well as meeting the communities affected by the bombing campaign. The Home Secretary insisted she be kept personally informed of all developments and made specific mention of this “series of terrorist attacks” in a subsequent conference speech.

This was an unusual request by a Home Secretary, but to receive such personal attention from two of the country’s most senior politicians reflected the gravitas of the crime and the significance with which extreme far-right terrorism would be addressed. At the time of these visits, Mr Saleem’s daughter Shazia Khan bravely spoke to the media and was entirely correct when she said: ’It was an act of terrorism because he was killed for his faith and that is exactly what the police have arrested this man for, on terrorism grounds.”

Just six months after his campaign of terror began, Pavlo Lapshyn was tried and convicted as a terrorist and received a life sentence in prison.

It is important to reflect on the events that unfolded after this unspeakable act of murder because they were so fundamental to the Prevent strategy becoming more deeply immersed in tackling the extreme far-right as well as the political support required to drive this forward. And as we saw with the Finsbury Park attack, the recognition of far-right terrorism now takes minutes, not weeks.

Sadly, today our inboxes are filling with far-right cases with almost a third of all safeguarding referrals to Prevent being linked to this ideology. From teenagers celebrating the events at Finsbury Park, to young children radicalised by extremist siblings or relatives.

The overwhelming terrorist threat to the UK is still from those inspired by Al Qaeda and Daesh, but the figures show we are not blind to the reciprocal threat from the extreme far-right. I am grimly confident that we are seeing a resurgence of these groups going beyond online promotion and becoming involved in secreting weapons caches, attending military training and planning for a wave of neo-Nazi terrorist attacks.

Through the Prevent strategy we can successfully reach out to those individuals before they engage in violence and offer positive interventions to resolve the underlying vulnerabilities that make these ideologies so attractive to so many. A staggering 84% of people we support disengage from extremism.

Incredibly, there are some who are committed to derailing this vital safeguarding work but collectively we should challenge the danger this poses to our communities. Perhaps they too should reflect on the tragedies that can occur, the lives destroyed and who the intended victims would be if we miss that opportunity to prevent the resistible rise of far-right extremism.

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Brits Fighting For Islamic State Should Be ‘Eliminated’, Gavin Williamson Says

New Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has declared his view that British jihadis fighting for so-called Islamic State should be killed” alt=”New Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has declared his view that British jihadis fighting for so-called Islamic State should be killed” data-credit=”PA Wire/PA Images” data-portal-copyright=”PA Wire/PA Images” data-provider=”pressassociation” data-provider-asset-id=”2.33662656″ data-has-syndication-rights=”false”>

Britons who have travelled abroad to fight for the so-called Islamic State should be “eliminated” and not allowed to return home, the newly-installed Defence Secretary has said.

Gavin Williamson said: “A dead terrorist can’t cause any harm to Britain.”

He told the Daily Mail: “I do not believe that any terrorist, whether they come from this country or any other, should ever be allowed back to this country.

“We should do everything we can do to destroy and eliminate that threat.”

Williamson’s hardline approach is at odds with the view of terror watchdog, Max Hill QC, who has said some jihadis should be allowed to return home.

And the head of MI5, Andrew Parker, revealed in October that many of those who have travelled to Syria to support Daesh, the Arabic name for IS, also known as ISIL or ISIS, have already returned to Britain.

But Williamson, a former Tory chief whip, countered that jihadis “hate everything that Britain stands for, hate our values, hate that Britain is a beacon to the world of democracy and tolerance.”

Williamson replaced Michael Fallon last month after allegations of sexual harassment surfaced against the former Defence Secretary.

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Alleged Terror Plot ‘To Kill Theresa May’ Foiled By Police And MI5 – Reports

An alleged plot to blow up the gates of Downing Street and assassinate  Theresa May was foiled by security officials, it has been reported.

The Daily Mirror, Sun and Telegraph stated two terror suspects charged earlier on Tuesday by the Metropolitan Police had been planning an attack on No.10.

In a statement, the Met said Naa’imur Zakariyah Rahman, of North London, and Mohammed Aqib Imran, from Birmingham, were arrested during raids in London and Birmingham last week.

They have been charged with preparation of terrorist acts and are both due to appear in court in Westminster on Wednesday, the Met said. The statement made no reference to the alleged target.

After the first wave of online reports, Sky News also claimed, citing sources,  that police had foiled a plot to kill May.

Its report said police believed there was a plan to launch an improvised explosive device at Downing Street and, in the chaos that ensued, attack and kill May.

Sky’s Crime Correspondent Martin Brunt said: “I understand that the head of MI5, Andrew Parker, briefed Cabinet ministers today, such is the seriousness of what they believed they have uncovered.

“It is in essence an extreme Islamist suicide plot against Downing Street.”

The men were arrested last week following a joint operation by MI5, the UK’s counter-terrorism security service, and police.

The force said Rahman, aged 20, had been charged with preparing acts of terrorism and assisting Imran in planning, while Imran, 21, was charged with preparing acts of terrorism.

A total of nine terrorist attacks have been prevented in the UK in the past year, the director general of MI5, Andrew Parker, told the Cabinet on Tuesday.

Parker released the information as an investigation into the security services and police following a string of terror attacks in Britain last year was published.

The official review found Manchester Arena bomber Salman Abedi was a former “subject of interest” and it is “conceivable” the attack “might have been averted had the cards fallen differently”.

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Manchester Arena Attack ‘Might Have Been Averted’ Report Finds

A report has found that it was ‘conceivable’ that the Manchester Arena bombing, carried out by Salman Abedi, could have been prevented” alt=”A report has found that it was ‘conceivable’ that the Manchester Arena bombing, carried out by Salman Abedi, could have been prevented” data-credit=”Sky News” data-portal-copyright=”Sky News” data-provider=”Other” data-provider-asset-id=”205921546″ data-has-syndication-rights=”false”>

Manchester Arena bomber Salman Abedi was a former “subject of interest” and it is “conceivable” the attack “might have been averted had the cards fallen differently”, an official review has confirmed.

The revelation came in a report by David Anderson QC examining the way police and the security services handled intelligence before four terrorist attacks hit London and Manchester earlier this year.

Anderson found that three of the six terrorists involved in those attacks – which claimed more than 30 lives between March and June – were on the security services’ radar.

Abedi detonated a shrapnel-laded homemade bomb on May 22 as people were leaving Manchester Arena after an Ariana Grande concert. Twenty-two people were killed and a further 500 injured. 

Adebi was twice a “subject of interest” to MI5 in the year before the attack but investigations were closed and the threat Abedi posed was downgraded, the report said. 

Fresh intelligence was also received in the months before the 22-year-old’s suicide bombing, but its “significance was not fully appreciated at the time”.

“In retrospect, the intelligence can be seen to have been highly relevant to the planned attack,” the report found. 

Home Secretary Amber Rudd said that blame for the string of terror attack to hit Britain this year ‘lies squarely’ with the terrorists” alt=”Home Secretary Amber Rudd said that blame for the string of terror attack to hit Britain this year ‘lies squarely’ with the terrorists” data-credit=”Sky News” data-portal-copyright=”Sky News” data-provider=”Other” data-provider-asset-id=”205921555″ data-has-syndication-rights=”false”>

An MI5 meeting due to discuss Abedi, a Briton born to Libyan parents, was scheduled for 31 May – nine days after the bombing.

Anderson, the former Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, reviewed reports into the attacks at Westminster Bridge on 22 March, the Manchester Arena bombing, the London Bridge attack on 3 June and the incident at Finsbury Park Mosque on 19 June.

Khalid Masood, who was behind the Westminster attack that claimed five lives, was previously investigated by authorities for extremist links and criminal activity, the report found, but his case was closed five years before he launched his car and knife offensive.  

The ringleader of the London Bridge attack, Khuram Butt, was still being actively investigated by police and the intelligence services, on suspicion of attack planning, when he struck along with two others. The trio killed eight people and injured 48. 

The investigation into Butt, Operation Hawthorn, began in 2015 following information suggesting that he “aspired to conduct an attack in the UK”.

Outlining the review findings, Home Secretary Amber Rudd told MPs that blame for the “cowardly” attacks “lies squarely” with the terrorists and those who encouraged them.

Responding to the report, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick called for “better infrastructures and resources at a time when the threat from terrorism poses significant challenges for police and security services”.

The attack at Parsons Green on 15 September was not covered by Anderson’s report.

Earlier today Downing Street revealed nine terror attacks had been thwarted in the UK during the past year. 

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Theresa May Should Not Ban Trump From Britain (As Much As We May Want Her To)

In the perennial Christmas movie Love Actually, a hapless but charming British Prime Minister (played by Hugh Grant) stands up to a boorish American president who sexually accosts a young woman (the delightful Martine McCutcheon) and is generally just a bit of a pillock. He is met with thunderous applause from a grateful and newly-patriotic country.

After US President Donald Trump’s latest round of tweets, many Brits are hoping Mrs May will deliver a rousing defence of her nation that will rival Hugh Grant.

They should not be holding their breaths.

The latest threat to Anglo-American relations began when, on Wednesday, Trump retweeted Britain First, a neo-fascist group which regularly spreads anti-Muslim propaganda. As if that wasn’t bad enough, later Wednesday evening, Trump picked a fight with Prime Minister Theresa May, who earlier that day had condemned his tacit endorsement for Britain First. “Don’t focus on me,” Trump tweeted at the Prime Minister, “focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom. We [the USA] are doing just fine!”

What Trump is doing is an unprecedented intrusion by an American leader into British domestic policy. He is spreading lies and stoking Islamophobia in Britain in order to rally his base and change the story back home, where his erratic behaviour and the Russia probe have led to the worst poll numbers of any president since polling began. Trump’s tweets are a distraction, but they have real-world consequences of legitimising Britain First and giving them a platform the size of which they could only dream of.

So it’s understandable that pundits and politicians have said Trump is not welcome in the UK, encouraging Mrs May to rescind his invitation to visit the country. After all, this is a US President meddling in British affairs in order to sew discord and promote Islamophobia. If that doesn’t call for a Hugh Grant-style speech, nothing does.

But say what you will about Theresa May, she knows how to play it cool. It seems like another lifetime when, for the Daily Dot, I wrote that then-candidate Donald Trump wouldn’t be banned from the UK, despite his hate-mongering risking the Special Relationship between Britain and the United States. Like it or not, I thought in 2015, Britain needed America. That is even more true than it is today.

 

Mrs May is already in the midst of the most complicated negotiations Britain has undertaken since the end of the Second World War… It simply isn’t in Britain’s national interest to now pick a fight with America, too

 

This isn’t me talking down Britain. “The mythical “special relationship” aside,” I wrote nearly two years ago, “we’re NATO allies who routinely share intelligence through Five Eyes, a collection of Anglosphere countries that includes Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. Our military and intelligence cooperation runs deep and cannot be dismissed. Britain and America need one another to combat the Islamic State in the Middle East and a possibly-nuclear North Korea in the Far East. We cannot allow Trump to drive a wedge between us now.”

Britain and America have shared interests regardless of who occupies the Oval Office or 10 Downing Street. Theresa May can’t risk the diplomatic turmoil rescinding Trump’s visit would surely create. There’s an argument to be made that she should never have extended the invite – and she shouldn’t have – but what’s done is done. She can’t just go back on her word now without further straining relations with Washington at a time when North Korea continues to fire rockets over Japan and global security is, generally speaking, at its most perilous point since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

And then there’s Brexit. Mrs May is already in the midst of the most complicated negotiations Britain has undertaken since the end of the Second World War. Relations with European allies, especially the French and the Germans, are fraught enough. It simply isn’t in Britain’s national interest to now pick a fight with America, too. Banning Trump from the UK would do just that.

Obviously, Number 10 couldn’t let Trump’s tweets go unanswered. Mrs May had to respond. On the whole, she did so proportionally and diplomatically. “The fact that we work together does not mean that we are afraid to say when we think that the United States have got it wrong and to be very clear with them,” she said. “I am very clear that retweeting from Britain First was the wrong thing to do.” Forceful but measured, Mrs May struck just the right tone. She’s not yet taken Trump’s bait and engaged in a diplomatic row, and she’s quite right not to.

As much as I and millions of Brits (and hell, Americans) would love to see Trump banned from the UK, the fact is it would be a diplomatic disaster that Britain simply doesn’t need and can’t handle right now. So as much as we’d all love to see Theresa May go all Love Actually on Trump, it’s probably better she acts not like Hugh Grant, but rather finds the cold, calculated restraint of Emma Thompson’s scorned wife – holding it together for the sake of the children, even if all she really wants to do is punch that arrogant arsehole who continues to betray everything that once made their relationship special.

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Brexit Threatens Security ‘Cliff Edge’ Unless UK Starts Making More Concrete Demands, Experts Warn

Brexit threatens Britain’s security unless it wakes up to the fact it must make concrete demands in the negotiations and stop assuming “good intentions” will suffice, experts have warned.

Though both Britain and the EU have emphasised they want to continue cooperating closely, a report by The UK in a Changing Europe warns that the matter is so “fiendishly difficult” that a new “cliff edge” on the issue looms unless Britain is cleared about what it wants.

“There is a danger that, unless the British Government acts quickly to define more clearly what it wants and how it might achieve it, another Brexit cliff edge – in security –  might be on the horizon,” Professor Anand Menon, King’s College London academic and director of the Brexit-focused research body, said.

Britain has been accused of using security, one of its stronger suits in the negotiations, as a bargaining chip to ensure it gets a better economic deal.

Menon added: “This is fiendishly complex. When negotiations are likely to involve constitutional issues, disagreements over the role of the ECJ and trade-offs from both sides, good intentions are not enough.

“Despite a shared desire to cooperate closely in future, nothing can be taken for granted.”

The UK in a Changing Europe report, published on Friday, argues British negotiators have failed to lay out specific enough demands on issues such as the European Arrest Warrant (EAW), participation in Europol and intelligence sharing between police forces and could lose out amid trade-offs.

It warns that any deal on the EAW would likely take years to negotiate and, while nations like Iceland and Norway have negotiated their own deals, the end result for Britain would likely be some EU countries wouldn’t surrender their nationals to the UK.

Britain is an active participant in Europol but it may any operational role in the agency, unless it can negotiate a new relationship that is “unprecedented”, the report said.

The Government has sought to emphasise the importance of security but also to deny it was trying to “blackmail” the EU by emphasising this in public.

Theresa May was accused of making a “blatant threat” when she said security could be weakened if Britain left the EU without a deal in her Article 50 letter in March.

“I think the security of our citizens is far too important to start a trade-off of one and the other. Both are absolutely necessary in the future partnership without bargaining this one against the other,” European Parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt said in response.

In September, the Government issued its position paper, noting “belief the UK has a historic deep belief in the same values that Europe stands for – peace, democracy, freedom and the rule of law” and making no reference to any threat of withdrawing co-operation.

Then-Defence Secretary Michael Fallon told the BBC: “This isn’t blackmail, this isn’t a negotiating strategy. What we are doing, and everybody has asked for this, is to set out how we see the new partnership the day after Brexit.

“We want to fight terrorism together. It’s vital. We are not making threats.” 

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YouTube finally blocks a known terrorist propagandist from its site

The extremist jihadist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki was killed in a U.S. drone strike six years ago. But until this month, he was the leading English-speaking jihadist recruiter through more than 70,000 videos posted on YouTube. 

Three-quarters of those videos are now gone from YouTube’s archives, the New York Times reported Sunday. The Times called the move by YouTube a “watershed moment” for platforms that have facilitated terrorist recruitment online.

Google, Facebook, Twitter, and even Airbnb have long claimed that they’re just platforms that bear no responsibility for the material that appears on them. In the post-Russian election interference era, however, some of these platforms have been forced to start accepting slightly more responsibility.  Read more…

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The NYC terror suspect was an Uber driver

Uber has confirmed with Mashable that the New York City terror suspect, who killed eight people and injured at least 11 by driving a truck through a bike lane on Tuesday, was an active Uber driver who passed the company’s background check.

Uber says it has banned the driver, Sayfullo Saipov, from using the Uber app and is now  “aggressively and quickly” looking into Saipov’s history with the company. Uber says it has not yet found any concerning safety reports associated with Saipov’s work as an Uber driver.

SEE ALSO: Uber just added a great feature for friends sharing a ride

In reaction to the violent event, an Uber spokesman gave the following statement:  Read more…

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People are demanding that the Las Vegas attack be labeled as an act of terrorism

How do we distinguish a crime from a terrorist attack? It’s a convoluted conversation that appears after every horrific mass shooting in America, and Sunday night’s Las Vegas attack—the deadliest in U.S. history—is no exception. 

As many on Twitter have pointed out, the president did not use the words “terror” or “terrorist” during his remarks about the shooting, despite his flippant use of the term in previous instances on Twitter. Today, the word is the top dictionary lookup online, according to Merriam-Webster, who defines it as “the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal.”  Read more…

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In the face of Charlottesville, Riz Ahmed delivers incredible spoken word performance

Sometimes, the best thing to do is just hand the mic to Riz Ahmed and let him do all the talking.

The rapper, actor and activist visited the couch of The Tonight Show for a normal evening of conversation, but at the prompting of Jimmy Fallon, ended up standing in a spotlight delivering a stirring spoken word piece that he explained had been written 10 years ago. 

“Every year I keep hoping it will become irrelevant, but it keeps becoming more and more relevant sadly,” Ahmed explained, before launching into the piece, called “Sour Times,” about terrorism. “It’s my attempt to get behind the headlines and work out where all this extremism is coming from.”  Read more…

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