MI5 and counter terrorism police are looking into 800 potential threats as ‘lone actors’ influenced by online hate. UK security services are investigating a record number of potential terror threats following a rise in right wing extremism, iNEWS can reveal.
The scale of the extreme right-wing terrorist threat has steadily increased over the past 20 years, and is believed to be largely posed by young people influenced by social media and online sites.
Counter terrorism police and MI5 are engaged in more than 800 investigations, the highest since such records began to be kept in 2002 after the 9/11 attacks, and there is no sign that the intensity will drop in the near future.
Isis, al-Qaeda and other Islamist terrorist groups remain the highest threat, but the rise in right wing extremism has been particularly strong since the EU Referendum in 2016, with the cost of living crisis, the Channel migrants issue and the post-Brexit era cited as leading causes.
Tracking down would-be terrorists is particularly difficult because so many are “lone actors” who are inspired to act independently rather than as part of a wider organisation.
Security services have, they say, foiled eight imminent terror attacks since the summer of 2021, and 37 since 2017. Around a third are linked to right wing extremists.
A spokeswoman for Counter Terrorism Policing (CTP) said: “Along with our colleagues in the security services, we have disrupted 37 late stage terror plots since 2017, eight since summer 2021.
“We are currently working on a record number of more than 800 investigations, the majority of which are in partnership with our colleagues at MI5. These investigations encompass a range of activities, including fundraising, possession and dissemination offences and preparing acts of terrorism.
“Our increasing casework in this area is believed to be driven by rising numbers of young people being drawn into the ideology, through social media and online platforms.”
In April 2020, MI5 took control over the monitoring for what the domestic security service describes as “extreme right wing terrorism and left, anarchist and single issue terrorism”.
The CTP spokeswoman added: “The primary manifestation of the threat in the UK is via self-initiated terrorists, individuals with no assistance from extreme right wing terrorist groups.
“At CTP we are increasingly concerned about the radicalisation of young people in this space, and are working hard to put interventions in place, to stop them taking this path.”
The rise of extreme right wing ideologies was blamed for the firebombing of an immigration processing centre in Dover on 30 October.
Andrew Leak, 66, killed himself after throwing incendiary devices into the Western Jet Foil site in the port city. The attack injured two people and more than 700 migrants had to be relocated.
CTP recovered evidence that suggested Leak was motivated by extreme right-wing ideology.
In June, the co-founder of secretive right wing group National Action, Alex Davies, was sentenced to eight years and six months in prison after being convicted of being a member of a proscribed organisation.
National Action was jointly founded by Davies in 2013 but joined the list of extremist groups proscribed by the government in December 2016 after it drew greater attention to itself by openly celebrating the murder of Jo Cox MP.
Topping the list of feared attacks are lone actors building crude homemade improvised explosive devices, similar to that used in the Admiral Duncan attack in London in 1999, intelligence sources told i. Known as one of Soho’s oldest gay pubs, it was the site chosen by neo-Nazi David Copeland to detonate a nail bomb which killed three people and left more than 70 injured.
There is a high level of concern that individuals plotting attacks are far more difficult to gather intelligence on compared to organised terror groups, either within or outside the UK.
The risk of attacks on crowded city centre leisure districts, sporting and entertainment venues have also increased, according to one former counter terrorism chief.
Nick Aldworth, who was the national co-ordinator at CTP until 2019, said: “The right wing has been the fastest growing threat in the UK for the last couple of years. MI5 currently working on record 800-plus terror investigations 37 ‘late stage’ plots foiled since 2017, eight imminent threats since summer 2021
CTP says ‘increasing casework driven by rising numbers of youth drawn into the ideology through social media and online platforms’. Police are ‘increasingly concerned about the radicalisation of young people’ to right wing causes. Former counter terror chief tells i that crowded spaces, sporting and entertainment venues, and politicians at risk.
MI5 seeks access to encrypted messaging services, given that extremists tend to use encrypted platforms and virtual private networks. Extreme right wing terror threats have increased to such a level that they now form part of the overall UK Threat Level assessment. “Right wing terrorists have a history of being lone actors and I don’t see anything to suggest that they are organised as groups. It is, however, symptomatic of generally declining social stability and there is research to suggest that at such times, terrorism grows.
“The greatest threat globally – in terms of quantum – from terrorism is currently against political targets rather than crowds, but in the UK it has manifested itself against a range of targets including crowds, private gatherings and political targets.” In June 2016, Labour MP Jo Cox was murdered by a right wing extremist Thomas Mair during the Brexit Referendum campaign.
As a result of the growing threat, MI5 has called on communications service providers to allow the security agency to have exceptional access to encrypted messaging, given that extremists tend to use encrypted platforms and virtual private networks to protect their messages and disguise their location.
Under the Terrorism Act 2000, the Home Secretary can proscribe an organisation if it is believed to have committed, planned or encouraged terrorist acts.
In June 2021, a Somerset man was jailed for 23 years for sharing terrorist material and possession of explosives. Dean Morrice, 34, was found to have extreme right wing material at his home, including manuals about how to make guns and guerrilla warfare. Counter terrorism officers also found a 3D printer at his home along with evidence he was trying to make a weapon.
A Government spokeswoman added: “The Government takes the threat from all forms of terrorism seriously, including the warped ideology of the extreme right-wing. We are committed to tackling those who spread views that promote violence and hatred against individuals and communities in our society, and that radicalise others.
“Our world class counter terrorism system is effective at identifying and disrupting extreme right-wing terrorist groups. Proscription plays a vital role, making it an offence to be a member or supporter of these groups, and sends a clear message that these vile ideologies have no place in society.”
Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee has also raised concerns over the rise in right wing extremists.
The committee’s annual report, which was published earlier this month, found that “the number of extreme right wing terrorism investigations, disruptions and Prevent referrals have all increased steadily since 2017”. The report said that the perpetrators of lone actor attacks “often display an interest in military culture, weaponry and the armed forces or law enforcement organisations”, and pointed to risks from both former and serving personnel. The committee, chaired by Conservative MP Julian Lewis, added: “The fact that the armed forces do not provide clear direction to service personnel regarding the membership of any organisation, let alone an extremist one, would therefore appear to be something of an anomaly.
“It appears a somewhat risky approach, given the sensitive roles of many service personnel.”
December 28, 2022 Published by iNEWS UK.