Call for ban on all neo-Nazi groups after nail bombings

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The Independent Online
ANTI-RACIST campaigners and community leaders called for neo- Nazi groups such as Combat 18 to be banned yesterday in response to the two bomb attacks on Brixton and Brick Lane in London.

Civil rights activists said the Government's plan to reform the 1967 Race Relations Act after the Lawrence report does not go far enough. They called for immediate action to make membership of far-right groups illegal.

Combat 18 has claimed responsibility for the two bombings, which injured 45 people.

Kumar Murshid, chairman of the National Assembly Against Racism, said: "Most people would be very surprised to know that Combat 18 and other groups like that are not illegal. They clearly exist to incite violence and they should be banned."

The call came as it was revealed that a group called the White Wolves, suspected of the bombings and said to be an offshoot of Combat 18, has sent death threats to Jewish community leaders in Manchester. Black, Asian and Jewish public figures and organisations received such threats before the Brixton attack.

A spokesman for the Jewish Community Security Trust in Manchester said: "The risk has to be taken seriously. We are liaising with the police and other ethnic minority communities in the city ... a pattern is emerging, first it was the blacks, then Asians and the Jews could be the next on the list."

Yesterday the Home Secretary, Jack Straw, told the Commons that hunting the racist bombers was the police's number one task: "Whilst the perpetrators of this violence remain at large there is plainly a risk that they may strike again. The police are pursuing the investigations of these bombings and protection of the public with the utmost vigour."

But Bangladeshi community leaders accused the police of failing to provide adequate protection and said the force had been negligent in closing Brick Lane's police station on Saturday afternoon. They also accused the police of being slow to arrive at the blast scene.

Shofique Choudhury, chairman of the Bangladeshi Welfare Association, said: "The Brick Lane police station is situated opposite where the bomb went off and in our opinion, the local police have been negligent in their endeavours to protect the local community even though they knew that a spiteful, racially motivated campaign was in the midst of London. Contrary to first reports, the police were not at the scene of the crime immediately, they came some time afterwards."

Police said the police station was open every third Saturday, because past experience had shown that it was under-used. Superintendent Rose Fitzpatrick of Bethnal Green police said: "We understand the concern about the vulnerability of the community in this part of London. We had increased police patrols before this event and we have increased them since the event."

Yesterday, police confirmed they were called on Saturday evening by the landlord of The Alma pub, in Spellman Street, near Brick Lane, after five white men came in to "gloat" about the bombing and make racist comments.

Stephen Kane, 52, said: "They were strangers, there was no reason for them to be there, and they were seriously abusive. I asked the police to come and help and they were happy to do so."

The White Wolves have printed pamphlets advocating attacks on ethnic minorities to provoke a backlash against the white population. This, the group claims, will lead to the far-right's hoped-for race war.

Black, Asian and Jewish communities across Britain, in the meantime, are preparing their defences after police warnings that further attacks are likely. Suresh Grover, of the Southall Monitoring Group, said volunteers would patrol the west London suburb, which has a large Punjabi population.

Mr Grover added that moves were under way to organise similar operations outside London in areas thought to be vulnerable to racist attacks.

Muhammad Ali, marketing manager of the Black Development Agency in Bristol, said: "We are all appalled by what has happened in London. We are anxious, we need to know what is going on."

Jewish community groups said they would link with Asian and black organisations to exchange information and work out strategies to protect themselves from neo-fascists.