Police have said the fastest-growing threat of terrorist violence in the UK is from the far right, with seven of the 22 plots to cause mass casualties since March 2017 being driven by extreme rightwing ideology.
They said referrals to anti-radicalisation programmes of those feared to be at risk of committing far-right terrorist acts had doubled between 2016 and 2018, and were expected to rise further.
In a briefing to the media, Britain’s top counter-terrorism officer, the Met assistant commissioner Neil Basu, said police were battling to stop extreme rightwing terrorism gaining more of a foothold than it already had.
He said: “The problem is small but it is my fastest-growing problem.” Basu said extreme rightwing terrorism had gone from 6% of the caseload two years ago to 10% now.
Some were incited by far-right propaganda, such as Thomas Mair, who murdered the Labour MP Jo Cox in 2016. But others, such as Darren Osborne, who attacked Muslim worshippers with a van in north London, had acted after consuming lawful material from groups such as the English Defence League and mainstream media.
Basu said: “When nearly a third of plots foiled by police and security services relate to rightwing ideology, it lays bare why we are taking this threat so seriously.”
The remainder were jihadist, which remains the biggest terrorist threat to the UK and has stabilised at a very high level after years of growth.
Far-right terrorism has drawn in some as young as 14 and has links to extremistm overseas, police said.
Police said rightwing extremists had been using guides on how to kill developed by Islamic State.
Weapons involved in plots, or which rightwing terrorists wanted to get hold of, included knives, explosives and firearms.
Basu said National Action – the only far-right group banned under proscription powers in the UK – has been “decimated” with only small groups or individuals now operating online across international borders.
But he warned organised groups were not his greatest concern. “The lone actor threat is the biggest problem,” he said.
He added: “We are bringing the full might of the UK counter-terrorism machine to bear against those extremists of any ideology who wish to do us harm or incite violence. And that is evident not only in the number of plots we have foiled, but also the number of convictions we have achieved and continue to chase through the courts.”
Basu said there was “clearly a correlation” between the rise in hate crime and far-right activity and the politics during and since the EU referendum in June 2016, but added the far-right threat had been present long before.
He called on individuals outside law enforcement to aid the fight against far-right extremism, adding police “can’t arrest ourselves out of this problem”.
He added: “That includes fighting against intolerance and hatred where we see it, and the insidious rise of hateful rhetoric online that goes beyond free speech and crosses into criminality must be fought at every opportunity.”
Basu championed the government’s divisive anti-radicalisation programme, Prevent, which is now subject to an independent review. The controversy surrounding the programme centres on the impact it has had on Muslim communities.
But in in 2017-18, of the 7,318 individuals referred to Prevent, 1,312 were referred for concerns related to right-wing extremism, a rise of a third when compared to the previous year.
Nick Lowles, chief executive of the Hope Not Hate charity, said: “We have long warned about the rising threat from the far right.
Small groups of hardcore Nazis are increasingly willing to commit extreme acts of violence, while a wider pool of DIY fascists are engaging in campaigns of harassment against public figures, especially those who oppose Brexit.
“It is essential that the police track the most extremist groups, but it is also vital to have robust security arrangements for candidates in any forthcoming election.”
Fastest-growing UK terrorist threat is from far right, say police – The Guardian