Far right now catching up with ISIS threat in Britain

Security minister says action needed to stop neo-Nazi groups becoming tomorrow’s terrorists

People hold the Union Flag whilst attending a Britain First rally as deputy leader Jayda Fransen (L) looks on, in Rochester, Britain November 15, 2014. Picture taken November 15, 2014.   REUTERS/Kevin Coombs
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Far-right terrorism has risen neck and neck with the threat from Islamist extremists, according to an assessment from Britain’s security minister.

The number of referrals to the UK’s counter-radicalisation scheme, Prevent, now stands at 43 per cent from the extreme right, compared with 45 per cent for concerns relating to Islamist militants. Latest figures reveal the number of referrals for far-right activity to the programme increased by more than a third last year.

During a hearing in London on the global terrorist threat, Ben Wallace, the UK's security minister, said immediate action needed to be taken to stop the far right becoming the terrorists of tomorrow. Measures are in place to ensure that the depth and scope of the threat did not reach levels such as those achieved by groups such as ISIS and Al Qaeda, he said.

“It’s a case of concern,” Mr Wallace said. “It has not yet reached the point where they are at the same level of determined conspiracy or cultural religious depth that we have seen in the Islamist [militants].

“But individuals are starting to pose a significant danger and that is why Prevent is very important to head them off.

"If I go back to the early 2000s where the Al Muhajiroun network and Anjem Choudary were fomenting and recruiting, before these people were crystallised into ISIS fighters and volunteers, that is where we are seeing the far right.

“It is a bubbling group of extremists and we need to get in there using Prevent, using diversion to prevent them becoming tomorrow’s terrorist groups.”

He said that the far right was becoming a “global community” similar to ISIS and had recently become “better organised and have better momentum”. He attributed the change to there not being “the international borders there used to be”.

“There have always been, as we know, neo-Nazis at large, but it is a recent phenomenon that they are more capable and more organised and able to live in a global community," he added.

Security officials have discovered the groups are using the ISIS social media model and its terrorism manuals on how to build bombs.

The assessment comes after the atrocity in Christchurch last month where 50 people were killed and dozens injured in shootings in two mosques.

Australian-born self-proclaimed white supremacist Brenton Tarrant has been charged over the terrorist ­attacks.

The UK’s anti-radicalisation Prevent scheme was previously criticised for unfairly targeting Muslim communities.

It was also lambasted for missing opportunities that could have helped prevent atrocities in the UK, including the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing when concerns about the attacker were not acted upon.

The scheme aims to identify vulnerable people and intervene at the earliest opportunity; Mr Wallace believes the programme is vital to tackling the far-right threat.

At the security hearing, government ministers repeated calls for financial sanctions on social media companies to force ­platforms to immediately remove terrorist propaganda.

Those calls follow the live-streaming of the New Zealand shootings on Facebook.

It revealed 4,000 referrals a month are made on inappropriate posts but claim the companies are not passing reports on to the ­authorities.

The major issues of how the UK will deal with returning foreign fighters came up at the hearing. Officials said only 40 of the 400 British ISIS fighters who returned to the UK have been prosecuted.

The government says it is about to introduce a new offence, which carries a 10-year prison sentence, of being in a designated area without permission, to address the issue.