UK’s revamped counterterror strategy shifts focus to far-right

Home Secretary Sajid Javid to warn that far-right and jihadist terror ‘are more similar than they might like to think’

A man walks past floral tributes outside Finsbury Park Mosque in the Finsbury Park area of north London, on June 19, 2017, near to where a vehicle was driven into pedestrians. (Tolga AKMEN / AFP)
A man walks past floral tributes outside Finsbury Park Mosque in the Finsbury Park area of north London, on June 19, 2017, near to where a vehicle was driven into pedestrians. (Tolga AKMEN / AFP)

Britain on Monday was to unveil a new counter-terrorism strategy to boost intelligence sharing between government agencies and the private sector, while shifting focus to the growing threat of far-right terrorism.

The plan, dubbed Contest, will seek to ensure “that there are no safe spaces for terrorists, no safe spaces internationally, in the UK or online,” Home Secretary Sajid Javid was expected to say in a keynote speech.

“The threats are evolving. We must evolve too,” he will say to an audience of counter-terrorism experts, according to excerpts released by the Home Office.

Javid will also identify “extreme right-wing terrorism” as an increasing threat and note similarities to the Islamic State jihadist group.

“The biggest threat is from Islamist terrorism — including al-Qaeda — but particularly from [IS]. But the threat doesn’t only come from [IS],” he is expected to say. “Extreme right-wing terrorism is also an increasing threat.”

“[IS] and the extreme right wing are more similar than they might like to think,” Javid will say. “They both exploit grievances, distort the truth, and undermine the values that hold us together.”

Britain’s newly appointed Home Secretary Sajid Javid arrives for a cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street in London, Tuesday, May 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Earlier this year, the outgoing head of the UK’s counter-terror police said authorities foiled four far-right inspired attacks in 2017, and warned not to underestimate the threat they posed to the country.

“The right-wing terrorist threat is more significant and more challenging than perhaps the public debate gives it credit for,” Mark Rowley said.

Britain has seen a number of right-wing inspired attacks in recent years. Days before the June 2016 Brexit referendum, a 52-year-old right-wing extremist shot and killed lawmaker Jo Cox over the vote.

A year later, a 48-year-old man rammed his truck into a group of Muslims outside of a London mosque, killing one person and injuring nine others. During his sentencing in February, the judge concluded that Darren Osborne had been “rapidly radicalized over the internet by those determined to spread hatred of Muslims.”

‘Lessons learned’

The new strategy set to be announced Sunday “incorporates the lessons learnt from the attacks in 2017 and our responses to them.”

Under the new blueprint, the security services will be alerted to suspicious purchases more swiftly.

Police forensic officers work at the scene near the library in Birstall, northern England, where Labour MP Jo Cox was shot on June 16, 2016. (AFP/ OLI SCARFF)

The British government want firms to raise the alarm as quickly as possible if they have evidence of unusual transactions — such as someone stockpiling large amounts of chemicals or acting suspiciously when hiring a vehicle.

It will be Javid’s first major speech on security since becoming home secretary in April following the resignation of Amber Rudd over the Windrush immigration scandal.

The son of Pakistani parents who emigrated to Britain in the 1960s, he will touch on his own background to address the issue.

“There’s one other thing that Islamists and the far right have in common,” he will say. “As a Home Secretary with a name like Sajid Javid — I’m everything they despise.

“So the way I see it, I must be doing something right.”

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