UK expert who warned of ISIS attacks every fortnight in Europe to head counter-extremism body

Robin Simcox has been appointed to lead the Commission for Countering Extremism

Robin Simcox has been named the interim head of the Commission for Countering Extremism. Courtesy Counter Extremism Group
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A British terrorism expert who exposed fortnightly ISIS terror plots across Europe has been appointed to lead the UK's counter-extremism body.

Robin Simcox, who is the director of the Counter Extremism Group think tank, has been named the interim head of the Commission for Countering Extremism.

He replaces Sara Khan, who is concluding a three-year term.

His appointment, initially for six months, will involve advising on how to tackle extremism in all its forms, including the future role of the commission and how the government can further harness innovative thinking within the academic and think-tank sectors.

Prior to founding the Counter Extremism Group, Mr Simcox served as a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation in Washington.

He has been a leading expert in the field of extremism and has testified before the US Congress on multiple occasions on issues related to terrorism.

Last year, he released a report revealing ISIS had been plotting or carrying out attacks in Europe every two weeks since the collapse of its last stronghold in 2019.

"It’s a great honour to be appointed the interim lead commissioner for countering extremism," he said.

"I look forward to building upon the valuable work already undertaken by Sara Khan and her team.

"Extremism is a scourge that has the potential to impact us all. There can be no place for it in the UK.

"I hope to be able to translate my experience in the counter-extremism field into recommendations that can help the government make headway on this key issue."

This year, Mr Simcox warned the government it needs to be as vigilant about the rise of prison emirs and radicalisation among incarcerated extremists as it is with fundamentalists on the street.

He has also previously criticised the government for failing to "safeguard" the public against released convicted terrorist Usman Khan, who killed two people near London Bridge in 2019.

Minister for Countering Extremism, Baroness Williams, said the government will continue to work against radicalisation.

"The government remains committed to tackling extremism and disrupting those who seek to sow hatred and division in our communities and radicalise others," she said.

"The important work of the Commission for Countering Extremism will continue, and I’m delighted Mr Simcox will bring his expertise and innovative thinking to this role.

"I’d also like to thank Sara Khan for her dedication as commissioner over the past three years and the significant contribution she has made to the government’s approach to tackling extremism."

Ms Khan has taken up the post of independent adviser on social cohesion and resilience at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Her role will entail advising the government on strengthening societal and institutional resilience against extremism, reducing its impact and identifying ways to protect and support its victims.

During her tenure, she published three reports, "Challenging Hateful Extremism", "Covid-19: how hateful extremists have been exploiting the pandemic" and "Operating with Impunity", which identified how extremists are able to operate lawfully under existing legislation.

"When I started, I had two members of staff and a blank sheet of paper," she said as she stepped down.

"In the last three years, I am proud to say the commission has grown to become an authoritative, independent, expert body on both extremism and counter-extremism, driving forward, innovative thinking and engaging widely across the country with thousands of people.

"In my time as lead commissioner, we have made a valuable contribution to the debate around counter-extremism."

In a letter to Ms Khan, home secretary Priti Patel praised her work in examining the future of online regulation.

"The counter-extremism agenda is never easy, but through your hard work and great insight, you have helped shape thinking and policy on this essential government priority," she wrote.

"You have always been a trusted adviser and a valued partner in considering the difficult, often sensitive issues relating to extremism.

"Your research on how extremists have used the pandemic to spread damaging conspiracy theories and exploit vulnerabilities during this time has made an important contribution to the government’s thinking and response on this issue."