The majority of Islamist terrorists in the UK are British-born, under the age of 30, educated and likely to be employed, according to a statistical analysis of all terror plots uncovered over the past ten years.
The Centre for Social Cohesion has spent two years compiling a database of individuals convicted of Islamist-inspired terrorism offences over the past decade.
The report, released today, comes as Britain prepares to mark the fifth anniversary of the July 7, 2005 bombings, the most deadly terrorist attack on UK soil. Despite the ongoing threat posed by terrorism, there is still no government database listing basic information on convictions in the UK.
Researchers at the Centre for Social Cohesion had to dig up court and press reports to compile the database, which reveals that between 1999 and 2009, 119 individuals – British and foreign nationals – were convicted of "Islamism inspired terrorism offences". The Government's lack of data on such offences was heavily criticised last year by the Intelligence and Security Committee inquiry into the 7/7 London bombings. "This is basic information that should have been being analysed to assess how well aspects of the [anti-terror] strategy were working and what changes needed to be made – particularly in terms of legislation," the committee said.
The Centre for Social Cohesion, a Westminster-based think tank with just six staff members, began working on the list two years ago and went on to compile the most comprehensive database of such convictions in the public domain. Houriya Ahmed, one of the report's authors, said yesterday: "The information in this report has not been made publicly available by the Government, if it exists at all. We hope that the trends we discovered help focus the Government's counter-terrorism efforts and this should be acted upon by the relevant authorities."
The Centre's researchers discovered 127 individual convictions for terror offences, which includes three of the 119 who were convicted twice of an offence, the four July 7 suicide bombers and Kafeel Ahmed, who killed himself during the unsuccessful bombing of Glasgow airport.
The average age of perpetrators was 27, with the youngest 16 and the oldest 48. Only five women have been convicted of terror-related offences – for assisting offenders or for possessing illegal documents. A third (32 per cent) of those convicted had direct links to a proscribed organisation, with the two most prevalent being the recently banned al-Muhajiroun (15 per cent) and al Qa'ida (14.5 per cent).
Almost half (48 per cent) of those convicted lived in the London area. Birmingham and West Yorkshire have the second- and third-highest numbers of convictions.
More than two thirds (69 per cent) of those convicted were born in the UK and held British passports.