Death of Sally-Ann Jones (White Widow)

 

sally ann jonesI’ll be on BBC Radio Scotland just after 12 noon (BST) today discussing the reported death of Sally-Ann Jones (the white widow) in a US drone attack in Syria and issues around radicalisation http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b096smkk

Commentary on the reported death of Sally-Ann Jones

The reported death of Sally-Ann Jones, who had been nicknamed the ‘white widow’, following a US drone attack in June 2017 in Syria is significant. Raised in Kent, UK as a Roman Catholic, she converted to Islam and married her husband Junaid Hussain where they travelled to Syria in 2013 to join Islamic State (IS). There Hussain was a jihadi fighter with IS who also had a major IS role as he was also employed  as a computer hacker. Jones was used by IS to recruit people to join the group, mainly western women. She also posted on social media threatening messages to Christians in the UK.

During my BBC radio interviews that I gave on the 12th October I was asked if Jones’ death was significant, if it was a surprise that a white middle class woman could be radicalised to IS and questions on the effectiveness of the UK’s Prevent policy. (BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat 5 minutes 32 seconds in, BBC Radio Scotland 15 minutes 38 seconds in and BBC Radio Kent, 1 hour 4 minutes 50 seconds in).

I do see it as significant as it has placed a dent in IS’ propaganda machine, especially in having a blonde haired white woman from the UK who converted to Islam and who was a committed IS follower. Having such an asset not only helped IS in recruiting other western women, IS used her to enhance the acceptance of a global Islamic community, especially using the fact that Jones spurned her western life as she embraced the IS narrative and life in the group’s self-proclaimed caliphate. While not being significant in a military sense, Jones did encourage UK citizens in carrying out IS inspired attacks in Britain and being as influential as she was IS have lost this asset in Jones too.

Corbyn’s Reluctance to Support Drone Attacks on Terrorists

The leader of HM Opposition in the UK’s Parliamentary Houser of Commons, the Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn agrees that if correct Jones’ death is significant. In a veiled condemnation of the fact she was killed in a drone attack, he added that it would have been preferable if she had been arrested and put on trial. I agree that in an ideal world all terrorists should face a criminal trial, but when you are dealing with groups like IS, this is a difficult task. When a targeted IS member is in IS held territory in the current conditions in Syria with its on-going civil war, where communication is difficult to establish and to have assets on the ground, this is virtually impossible. In relation as to whether Corbyn would order a drone attack, in essence he stated he would not do so adding one would have carefully look at the effects such a strike would have on a civilian population. He is right of course, this is an important factor and it is one the RAF and other western air forces do consider. prior to carrying out a bombing sortie. In giving this response Corbyn tried to avoid the issue and in my mind showed his reluctance and naivety on this issue. The former US President, Barak Obama certainly had many liberal credentials and he acknowledged that targeted strikes were not a ‘cure all’, where he was haunted by the civilians who were unintentionally killed. While committed to capturing terrorist suspects, in difficult circumstances where this was not possible Obama saw drone attacks as saving lives. It is a not an acceptable state of affairs, but in areas like Syria where individuals who influence others to carry out attacks on a wider civilian population, drone attacks are a necessity.

UK Terror Threat Critical

parsons green bomb 1

Following the Parsons Green bomb attack, late last night (15th September 2017) the UK’s terror threat rose from severe to critical, which means a terrorist attack is imminent.

This means there is reasonable suspicion that another attack will occur, possibly similar to that seen in Parsons Green. The Metropolitan Police’s  Asst Commissioner Mark Rowley who is a senior counterterrorism officer has said that there is an intensive investigation into the attack. I agree with him that even where there is an attack by a so-called ‘lone wolf’ there is usually someone assisting them or even encouraging them to carry out the attack. Clearly the investigators will be going through the forensic evidence obtained at the scene, the CCTV footage, witness statements and the intelligence systems.  I mentioned this in my media interviews yesterday with the BBC news channel, BBC Radio, talkRadio and LBC (you can hear one of my interviews from yesterday with BBC Radio Merseyside that is 1 hour 1 minute 13 seconds in).

As I predicted in my last blog, Islamic State have claimed responsibility. In doing so this does not mean that whoever carried out the Parsons Green attack had direct orders from the group, it is as I explained someone who is inspired by the group’s Islamist narrative. This is pattern we have seen from Islamic State with most of the attacks that have been carried out in Europe over the last 18 months.

One question I was asked in most of my interviews yesterday was if this is the ‘new normal to expect’. It appears so and if anyone is suspicious about anything, no matter how minor, to support the UK police and security services call the anti-terrorism hotline 0800 789 321

Parsons Green Terrorism Incident, London

parsons green bombparsons green bomb 1

At 8.20 am (BST) on Friday 15th September 2017 an IED exploded on a London Underground train at Parsons Green station on the District Line injuring 29 people. Fortunately no one was killed or seriously injured. That may due in part to reports coming out that the IED was crudely made. This indicates it was constructed by a person with little or no experience or knowledge of explosives. Even though a timer was attached, again it was a basic, crude device. This has led to speculation as to whether Parsons Green was not the perceived target as Parsons Green has not been perceived as a location subject to a high risk of terrorist attacks as there are more likely high risk locations further down the District Line such as St. James Park, Westminster, Embankment or Temple.

The Metropolitan Police has confirmed the bomb attack is a terrorist incident. At the time of writing there is speculation as to who is responsible. This has not been helped by the US President, Donald Trump’s tweet earlier today saying, ‘Another attack in London by a loser terrorist. These are sick and demented people who were in the sights of Scotland Yard. Must be proactive.’ [My emphasis] There is no doubt that this incident has been committed by a person influenced by any form of extremist cause, not just an Islamist one.

I would be surprised if it was someone acting under the political cause of the extreme far right as it is not their style of attack, they tend to attack individuals (and it looks like they too are using vehicles as seen in Charlottesville, US and outside Finsbury Park mosque in London – allegedly). Also this type of attack could alienate any potential far right followers as the majority of victims would have been white UK citizens. Again, I think it is highly unlikely it is someone linked to dissident Irish republicanism such as the new IRA as dissident Irish republicans have never attempted this type of attack and during the Irish Troubles the Provisional IRA’s England Department gave coded warnings when targeting civilian targets. From what information that is released to date, I think this has been carried out by someone inspired by the Islamist narrative, potentially by Islamic State. It may seem strange the bomber did not stay with the device, looking to kill themselves in the explosion, but as we have seen in recent attacks in Europe like Barcelona last month, the terrorist escaped the scene. Recently the UK and other western states have suffered attacks by people inspired by the Islamist narrative who have not received any formal training at camps in the likes of Syria or Iraq, hence why we have seen low level attacks easy to carry out by using vehicles driven into crowds and knife attacks.

rumiyah cover

One source of information Islamic State is using to inspire individuals and recruit them to their cause is the online magazine Rumiyah (Islamic for Rome).The first issue was published in September 2016 and apart from containing propaganda outlining their military actions in countries where they are losing territory, Rumiyah encourages Muslims to carry out their military jihad in western countries like the UK. To aid them, Rumiyah contains articles advising on the best and most effective ways to carry out attacks like those we have recently witnessed.

It is important that if the Parsons Green station attack is another Islamic State inspired attack that all Muslims are not treated with disdain or seen as potential terrorists or terrorist sympathisers, as nothing is further from the truth and this would play into Islamic State’s hands in their propaganda war. I know of many Imams who have barred radicals from their mosques and members if the Muslim community who have passed on information to the police of suspected terrorist activity. It is worth noting that Islamic State do not just kill the kuffar who are Christians, they have killed more Muslims than any other group, Muslims Islamic State see as the murtaddin (Muslims who reject Islam). Those that Islamic State as murtaddin are not Muslims who have rejected Islam, they are Muslims who have rejected Islamic State as the evil group they are. Islamic State have carried out pogroms on many Muslims, killing literally thousands such as Shia Muslims and Kurdish Muslims who they see as apostates.

What can we do to help with these attacks? If you are suspicious of anything or have a feeling something is not right report it to the police or security or phone the anti-terrorist hotline 0800 555 111. The police will handle all information with sensitivity and it is better to be safe than sorry.