The Terrorist Threats Discussed at the UK’s National Security Summit: How Safe Are We?

Neil Basu

At the UK’s Nation security Summit held in London on the 9th October 2018 the head of national counter-terrorism policing, Neil Basu, warned that one for the greatest terror threats in the UK is by its own citizens who have been radicalised by extremists, in particular Islamists, who are frustrated or aspire to travel abroad to fight with the Islamic State (IS).

London Bridge & Borough Market Attack

There is credence in Basu’s observations as seen in the recent attacks prevented attacks in the UK. For example the London Bridge/Borough Market attack in June 2017 to of the attackers, Khuram Butt and Youssef Zaghba were prevented by authorities from leaving Europe to join IS in Syria/Iraq. In addition to this, another threat is posed by individuals who did fight with IS in Syria/Iraq who have returned to their home state as they will be more experienced in the use of firearms and explosives, as well as potentially in chemical weapons that were used by IS in Syria/Iraq. This threat is not just applicable to the UK, but to states in Europe, North America and other states such as the Philippines where returning fighters are now fighting in the south of the country. This is a global problem.

In relation to terrorists’ use of chemical and biological weapons, Neil Basu correctly states the likes of chlorine and mustard gas was used in Syria/Iraq and terrorists do want to adapt these weapons for use in domestic terrorist attacks. Fortunately, what is problematic for terrorists wanting to use such weaponry is having the facilities for storage and maintaining the chemicals as they have to be stored under controlled conditions. When IS held land in their self-proclaimed caliphate this was possible, but in domestic circumstances where without laboratories it is more difficult. As such, the type of attacks being planned will be low-level attacks we have unfortunately witnessed in Europe with the use of vehicles and sharply bladed instruments such as knives, which we have witnessed still have a devastating effect.

parsons green bombbarcelona terrorist attack 2017

There is also the possibility of terrorists using firearms and improvised explosive devices (IED). In relation to the latter this was seen in the Parsons Green attack in September 2017 and in Barcelona, August 2017, where the former failed to detonate and in the latter the explosives were not handled correctly resulting in the terrorists blowing themselves up in their home. To handle explosives requires a degree of knowledge and experience, which clearly many domestic terrorists do not possess. One cannot be complacent over this as the threat of the use of IED’s is still real. This could come from returning IS fighters and in the case of the UK, current paramilitaries in the North of Ireland from the republican New IRA to loyalist’s groups such as the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Ulster freedom Fighters have members who have experience in the use of IED’s from the 1968-1998 Irish Troubles.

National Action 2national action at Liverpool

One must not forget that the terrorist threat does not solely emanate from Islamist inspired terrorism, there is also the threat from far-right groups too, and in the UK from paramilitaries in the North of Ireland. The UK is still the only state to proscribe far-right groups as terrorist organisations and to date these groups have been inspired by the national socialist narrative (National Action, Scottish Dawn and NS 131). Other far-right groups are also being monitored by UK counter-terrorism police and the security services such as Resistance System Network. Again, the terrorist threat far-right groups pose is not unique to the UK, it is prevalent throughout Europe, North America and Australia.

IRA unfinished revolution derrynew IRA

In relation to the UK republican groups in the North of Ireland have been using the impasse regarding the Irish border in the Brexit negotiations to influence an increase in paramilitary activity, in particular the New IRA.

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Due to the diversity of terrorist threats, the number of groups and individuals being monitored and the increasing pressure counter-terrorism police and the security services have in keeping us safe is enormous. There are two areas that can help alleviate their workload so as to enable them to focus on the groups and individuals that pose a real threat to our security. First is to allocate more resources from the public and private sectors as well as communities to the Prevent strategy. A pre-criminal strategy, Prevent is aimed at helping individuals who are vulnerable to being drawn into terrorist activity. Secondly, we can all play our part by being more vigilant in reporting any activity we see as suspicious. Initiatives in the UK like Action Counters Terrorism (ACT) and the British transport Police’s ‘See it, Say it, Sort it’ are there to help us report anything we suspect is likely to be linked to terrorism and the police will deal with any reports sensitively.

Sputnik logo

I discuss this in more details in my radio interview with Sputnik Radio and many of these themes are covered in my book ‘Terrorism: Law and Policy’ that was published in March 2018

My terrorism book cover

Media Interviews on Russian Spy Scandal

GRU logo

Following the breaking news today that four Russian military intelligence officers from Russia’s GRU were expelled from Holland allegedly targeting the Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons in The Hague in April 2018 I will be giving a number of media interviews including Al Arabiya at 2pm (BST), BBC Radio Three Counties at 4.20pm (BST) and BBC Radio Derby at 5.20pm (BST) today discussing issues related to the event.

Brexit and the Irish Border: A Catalyst to a new Irish Troubles and the Rise of Saoradh

irish border

How the Irish border between the six counties of the North of Ireland and the twenty-six counties of the Irish republic will operate post-Brexit is not just a sticking point in the current Brexit negotiations, it is an issue, which if not resolved, could be the catalyst to a rise in sectarian violence between republicans and loyalists in the North resulting in new Irish Troubles.

saoradh

This observation is not one of being alarmist, there is already a rising undercurrent of discontent in the North. This is exemplified in the rise of a relatively new Irish republican party, Saoradh. Formed in September 2016and backed by New IRA (NIRA) prisoners held in Mughaberry and Portlaoise prisons Saoradh held its first ard fheis in Newry that month. Those who gathered at this first ard fheis (and who subsequently became Saoradh’s member’s and supporters) included those who were associated with the Republican Network for Unity, 32 County Sovereignty Movement (closely aligned with the former Real IRA) and the 1916 societies. Saoradh supporters include notorious members of the IRA in its various forms such as Colin and Paul Duffy. Messages of support were read out from the founder of the Provisional IRA, Billy McKee and Saoradh’s first chairman, David Jordan from Tyrone, was a republican dissident and former prisoner.

Saoradh claims to be solely a revolutionary republican party with no connection to republican paramilitary groups, stating its main aim is to introduce a socialist agenda to support the working class by creating an Irish Socialist Republic, not just in the North but in the whole of Ireland. The party’s main issues include:
1. The end of British imperialist rule in the North;
2. The end of power sharing at Stormont and an end to the Good Friday Agreement;
3. The end of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) that the party refers to as the Royal Ulster Constabulary/PSNI.

david jordan

In essence Saoradh supports armed conflict in the North and refers to republican paramilitary prisoners as prisoners of war. David Jordan was charged with the attempted murder of a PSNI officer in Castlederg, Tyrone in 2008, with those charges being dropped by the Public Prosecutors’ Office in October 2016.

While the language Saoradh uses is similar to that used by Sinn Fein during the Troubles, the party is highly critical of Sinn Fein, seeing them as having sold out the republican cause by participating in political institutions such as the Assembly at Stormont (albeit Sinn Fein still maintain an abstentionist stance with Westminster). Saoradh sees the Stormont Assembly as a ‘partitionist assembly’ and does not recognise it, even though the current impasse between Sinn Fein and the DUP has resulted in the Assembly being suspended since 2017!

bogside riotssaoradh march

 

While no doubt many will see Saoradh as a minor party of little significance, support for the party was seen in the Bogside riots in July 2018, activity in the Creggan, Derry in April 2018 that led to arrests and also in April 2018 Saoradh organised in Belfast an ‘unfinished revolution’ march where many were dressed in republican paramilitary dress.

Returning to Brexit and the Irish border, Saoradh’s leaders told researchers from Queen’s and Ulster University that Brexit was, ‘manna from heaven from our perspective’. Another of Saoradh’s leaders, Patrick Courty, told its supporters at an Easter Rising commemoration in 2018:

‘Brexit has the potential to break up the British state … with the inevitable infrastructure of a hard border imminent, this will drive home to the Irish people the partition of our country … and as history teaches us it wild inevitably stoke the fires of resistance against British rule in Ireland.’

DUPKaren Bradley

The warning signs are there and although the focus here has been on dissident republicanism, should Saoradh influence republican based violence, such violence will be swiftly reciprocated by Loyalist paramilitary violence. The UK government should be awake to this development as it is too important to marginalise as irrelevant or worse, ignore it. As seen in the UK government’s position regarding the Irish border issue in the Brexit negotiations the signs are not good. A consequence of not having an overall majority in the House of Commons is the UK government in being a minority government it is being held to ransom on this issue by the DUP MP’s in Westminster. The perspective the current UK government’s view has on the North of Ireland is not perceived by its population and some of Britain’s population as being positive and concerned with the issues affecting the Province. This is not helped with the appointment of Karen Bradley as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland who on appointment admitted to only having limited knowledge of the North. This ministerial position should be reviewed by the current Prime Minister who should now look for someone who has a good knowledge of Irish history, Northern Irish politics and social issues. This is a country that is suffering the most in the UK especially in the western counties of Derry and Tyrone where there is widespread poverty, high unemployment, poorer standards of social housing and healthcare as well as a lack of investment in the area regarding both its infrastructure and in encouraging new business. A Northern Ireland minister who is aware of these issues could do more to assist in these areas as well as work on breaking the impasse between Sinn Fein and the DUP in the Assembly at Stormont so elected representatives can pass legislation and work towards improving the lives of all Northern Irish people. If this is not done then it simply plays into the hands of the paramilitaries on both sides and their political parties like Saoradh who will spark more widespread paramilitary violence once more.

Irsih Troubles figures

The lessons of the 1960’s must be learnt to stop the rise of extremist groups and paramilitary support in the North as ambivalence towards the North of Ireland in Westminster could result in the country suffering another period of violence.

My terrorism book cover

Some of these issues are covered in my book ‘Terrorism: Law and Policy’ that was published in March 2018 by Routledge

Radio Interview Reviewing My Book ‘Terrorism: Law and Policy’

 

My terrorism book cover

Just after 12 noon (BST) tomorrow (22nd August 2018) I will be on City Talk with Mick Coyle discussing my book ‘Terrorism: Law and Policy’ and issues that come out of the book as well as a little on my career to date. I have added a link if you want to listen. I am sure Everton will also get a mention!

Me at City Talk

 (Me and Mick reviewing the newspapers on City Talk)

 

Are ‘Troubles’ bubbling under the surface in the North of Ireland?

North of Ireland Map

While UK mainstream media understandably focuses on issues related to Brexit, anti-Semitism rows in the Labour Party, knife crime in London, issues related to US president Trump and even the recent heatwave (which more recently has only been in the southeast of England), in 2018 there have been a number of disturbing incidents occurring in six UK counties. Those are the six counties that make up the north of Ireland. It is disconcerting how these incidents tend to get very little mainstream media coverage on the British side of the Irish Sea.

ira flagloyalists

A brief overview of some of the recent incidents  includes:

  1. Raymond Johnson murdered when he was shot at his home in west Belfast in front of his children in February 2018, allegedly by dissident republicans;
  2. A 60% rise in punishment beatings/shootings in the North by dissident republicans and loyalist groups where 101 punishment beatings/shootings took place in 2017 alone;
  3. Three suspected dissident republicans arrested for bomb making in Strabane, County Tyrone in April 2018;
  4. Attempted murder of Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) officers in December 2017;
  5. Petrol bombing of PSNI officers in Derry, April 2018;
  6. Explosive devices being thrown at former Sinn Fein leader, Gerry Adams home in Andersontown, west Belfast in July 2018 (admittedly because Adams such a high profile figure this did get reported in Britain). This could have been committed by either loyalist or dissident republicans who see Sinn Fein and PIRA having sold out to the cause with the Good Friday Agreement;
  7. Large scale disorder in the Bogside district of Derry in July 2018 (during the period of the Orange Order’s 12th July marches).

ronan-kerrMI5 bombing belfast

The current terrorist threat in the north of Ireland is severe, but not from Islamist or far-right terrorist activity, but from dissident republican and loyalist groups, with that threat from Irish related terrorist activity being moderate in Britain. This activity is not recent, 2009 saw the then Real IRA shoot and murder British soldiers at Massereene Barracks in County Antrim, the murder of PSNI officer Ronan Kerr in Omagh 2011, car bomb outside MI5 offices in Belfast, mortar bombing of Strand PSNI station Derry, murder of prison officer David Black, and this is not an exhaustive list of terrorist activity that has occurred in the North since 2009.

orange-bonfire

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) yet there is a danger of dissident republican and loyalist groups increasing use of violence destroying all the good work that has happened since the GFA. When incidents have occurred it is heartening that people have come out and protested against the violence under ‘not in my name, as seen when Ronan Kerr was murdered and more recently after the disorder in Derry. It will need political leadership as well as communities wanting real change. In April I was canvassing for the SDLP candidate Daniel McCrossan during the West Tyrone byelection and it was interesting to canvass certain parts of the constituency where old views, beliefs and the sectarian divide are so strong it appears progress post GFA is struggling to happen in parts of the North. When canvassing I saw fresh IRA graffiti and being told in no uncertain terms that I was not welcome in certain areas because its ‘Sinn Fein’ country. On the other side of the divide it is becoming more disconcerting when Irish tricolours and images of politicians from Sinn Fein, SDLP and other non-Unionist parties are placed on the large bonfires built for the 11th July. This could be construed as condoning loyalist violence and hatred of nationalist and republicans or anyone at all who is not from the protestant community or unionist politics, but this is claimed by some as part of the protestant heritage and culture!

IRA unfinished revolution derrystormontLoyalist mural Derry west bank

It is time for the DUP and Sinn Fein to compromise and come to some agreement in order to have the NI Assembly up and running at Stormont. In doing so it will allow a new, younger generation of Northern Irish politician like Daniel McCrossan and others to work on improving the infrastructure of the country, improving housing, education and health care, encourage business investment thereby enhancing employment prospects and importantly focus on getting the border issue between the North and the Irish Republic post Brexit sorted to the benefit of both countries (and ultimately the whole of the UK). This is what is wanted in the North, not bickering over the names of parks or continually remembering and honouring Irish terrorists by attending events held in their honour. All this does is keep the North in the politics and culture of the past, including the recent past. To help bring about change it is imperative there is a serious period of reconciliation between the two communities so the North can move on and progress to the benefit of all. If this does not happen then the divide will continually exist in the North with the maintenance of bitterness and hatred with a minority. which is such a contrast to the Irish Republic. As such it would not take much to ignite sectarian violence on a larger scale than what we are witnessing today, but as stated above it is not on the scale as seen during the Troubles, but the increase is gradual.

The Irish tricolour flag and blue sky.

There is an irony in the Irish tricolour flag as the green represents the ancient Gaels, orange to represent the northern followers of William of Orange, and white to symbolise a peace between them. let’s hope this happens with all sooner rather than later.

My terrorism book cover

I cover the situation in the North of Ireland in my book ‘Terrorism: Law and Policy’ published in March 2018 by Routledge

 

Tommy Robinson is Innocent and Not a Nazi

 

tommy robinson 1

In my blog ‘Tommy Robinson is Innocent?’, posted 22nd July 2018, I discussed issues related to freedom of expression and suggested that Tommy Robinson is not committing hate crime. I based this premise on the fact Robinson does not vilify or blame Islam per se or all Muslims for various crimes and terrorist activity. I suggested that provided he remains within the legal parameters of freedom of expression, he be allowed to continue with his social media profile as well as maintain his website.

tommy robinson 2

Even though many find Robinson’s views and commentary offensive, anything that is offensive, provided it does not glorify or promote violence, can come within what is permitted under freedom of expression. Antifa groups should also come under scrutiny for what they promote, in what they say and in how they conduct themselves at public assemblies. Yesterday (1st August 2018) they gathered outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London chanting that Robinson is ‘Nazi scum’. I disagree with that as Robinson never has nor does advocate national socialism, he is expressing comments on some Muslims and some aspects of Islam that many will find offensive, heretical and provocative. This does not make Robinson an Nazi!

national action at Liverpool

However, I agree it is the neo-Nazis are the main problem in relation to the far-right and they both glorify and provoke violence against non-whites, Slavs, Gypsies, Jews, gay and lesbian people and the state. Already the UK has seen one MP, Jo Cox assassinated by Mair a man influenced by the national socialist narrative in 2016 and an plan to kill another UK MP, Rosie Cooper and the police officer investigating him by National Action member, Jack Renshaw who pleaded guilty to this charge in June 2018. This is addition to many assaults on those the neo-Nazi’s see as targets due to their difference and damage to property.

System Resistance Network

Resistance System Network is the latest UK neo-Nazi group to morph out of the proscribed far-right terroirs group, National Action, where Alex Davies, the founder of National Action, clearly has his fingerprints and DNA all over the group’s activities.

Royal Court of Justice

Yesterday the UK’s Court of Appeal released Robinson on bail from prison where Lord Chief Justice, Lord Burnett ruled that Robinson’s article 6 ECHR right to a fair trial was violated and that his case is to be reheard. Where Robinson overstepped the mark was the cases he was alleged to be reporting had reporting restrictions placed upon them, and breaching that restriction can be held as contempt of court.

Let due process take its course and apply the rule of law (Lord Burnett applied the rule of law in finding the court that sentenced Robinson had erred in law), which is what differentiates a tolerant liberal democracy from a totalitarian state. I reiterate once more, restricting freedom of expression because it is offensive, heretical, unwelcome, irritating or provocative is a move to towards a totalitarian state and we should uphold the decisions in the UK’s High Court in Redmond Bate and the European Court of Human Rights in Handyside v UK.

My terrorism book cover

I cover many of these issues in my book ‘Terrorism: Law and Policy‘ that was published in March 2018 by Routledge.

Koley and Elsheikh, Islamic State’s Beatles duo: Should they receive the death penalty or life imprisonment?

Koley and Elsheikh

Alaxanda Koely and El Shafee Elsheikh, referred to as Islamic State’s ‘Beatles duo’ may be facing trial for murder in the US. Koley and Elsheikh worked alongside another UK citizen, Emwazi (aka Jihadi John who was killed in a drone strike in Syria in 2015) with Islamic State in Syria where they guarded, tortured and killed hostages the group held. This included the killing of US citizens James Foley and Stephen Sotloff and the UK aid worker, Alan Henning that received high profile media reporting due to the gruesome videos the cell recorded of their beheading by Emwazi.

Javid

Koley and Elsheikh were captured early 2018 in Syria by one of the freedom fighter groups and handed over to US authorities in the area. The question to determine is where they will be tried for the murders they were Invovled in. On the 23rd July 2018 the UK Home Secretary, Sajid Javid has written to his US counterpart suggesting prosecution of the two men in the US would be the best course of action, adding, controversially, the UK would not insist against the death penalty for these two men.

ECHR logo

Why it is controversial is because since 1965 the UK abolished the death penalty for murder and in 1998 when the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) was enshrined into UK law through the Human Rights Act 1998, the death penalty for treason, piracy and arson of the Queen’s dock yards (basically the Royal Navy’s dockyards) was also abolished. As such extradition of persons from the UK to the US will only be on the basis those extradited will not receive the death penalty. We saw this with the extradition of the Islamist preacher Abu Hamza, a decision supported by the European Court of Human Rights who held the extradition did not violate Hamza’s right to a fair trial (article 6 ECHR) and because he would not receive the death penalty so preserving his right to live (article 2 ECHR).

The difference with the extradition of Koley and Elsheikh is that under section 2 Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015, they were stripped of their British citizenship under a temporary exclusion order from the UK. It is this legal issue that has led to Javid informing the US that there are ‘strong reasons for not requiring a death penalty in this specific case.’

The UK Labour Party’s shadow attorney general and former head of the group Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti to see this move as a ‘grave human rights abuse’. is this really the case? This is potentially a one-off extradition and as many have posted on social media sites there is little or no sympathy for Koley and Elsheikh as they had no regard for the human rights of those they tortured and killed. This is an understandable response. Rather than claiming a grave human rights abuse will occur, it is preferable to request that neither men receive the death penalty as it will take away the potential for Islamists to  claim that Koley and Elsheikh are martyrs, should they receive the death penalty. This will remove any potential propaganda Islamist groups will use as they distort the truth. If found guilty in a court of law it is better they receive life sentences being left to spend the rest of their lives in prison. Perhaps Javid could consider this as an option should Koley and Elsheikh be tried in the US.

My terrorism book cover

The law in this area can be found in my book ‘Terrorism: Law and Policy‘ published by Routledge this year.