Police have arrested 11 suspected members of a neo-Nazi group on suspicion of terror offences across England and Wales.
Six men were arrested in north-west England, including one suspect who was already in prison; two in Wales; two in West Yorkshire; and one man in Wiltshire. Counter-terror police are searching their homes.
Several of the alleged National Action supporters were arrested in and around Warrington, where The Independent revealed the group was continuing to operate a base.
Police cars and uniformed officers remained outside a house on Greymist Avenue in Warrington following a dawn raid in the quiet cul-de-sac.
“My husband tried to go to work at 6am and the road was just full of police,” one neighbour said, adding that a couple and their three children aged in their twenties or thirties lived at the house.
“They just keep themselves to themselves. I've seen them walking about. It's an older couple with two boys and a girl.”
Another resident said the family had lived there for about 30 years. “They never speak to anybody. I don't know them,” he added. “There's never been any kind of trouble at the house before.”
National Action became the first far-right group banned as a terrorist organisation in December, with the Government citing its “virulently racist, antisemitic and homophobic” ideology. But experts and campaigners had warned that members were evading authorities by splitting into regional factions and operating under different names.
National Action promotes the idea that Britain will inevitably see a violent “race war” and has been linked to the murder of Jo Cox and a pipe bomb plot.
Detective Chief Superintendent Martin Snowden, head of the North East Counter Terrorism Unit, said: “Today's arrests are part of coordinated action by the national counter-terrorism network and UK policing. Those who promote extreme right-wing views are looking to divide our communities and spread hatred. This will not be tolerated and those who do so must be brought to justice.”
The senior national coordinator for counter-terrorism policing, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu of the Metropolitan Police, said: “Counter-terror policing is committed to tackling all forms of extremism that threatens public safety and security. Investigations relating to alleged extreme right wing activity are pursued with the same level or resource and vigour as other ideologies, in order to bring suspected offenders before the courts.
"Today's arrests, while resulting from two separate investigations, have been coordinated by our officers across a number of forces. This maximises operational effectiveness for police and minimises disruption for the local communities."
It comes after three alleged members of National Action, including serving British soldiers, appeared in court charged with terror offences. Lance Corporal Mikko Vehvilainen, Private Mark Barrett and Alexander Deakin, a civilian, stand accused of being members of the banned group and other offences.
Following their arrests, it emerged that several people who openly expressed support for National Action and neo-Nazi ideology online were able to join the Army.
The case prompted calls for the Government to launch an inquiry into possible extremism within the military but the Ministry of Defence said it had no plans.
Campaigners have warned of a growing threat from the ultranationalists in Britain, with just under a third of all people being monitored under the Channel counter-extremism programme currently from the far-right. Sabby Dhalu, joint secretary of Unite Against Fascism, said Wednesday's arrests said “much greater prominence must be given to the fight against far-right terrorism”.
“There are clear double standards in the way we treat terrorism in this country: Media headlines and government announcements focus almost exclusively on terrorist activity by those claiming to be Muslims, while around a third of all suspected terrorist activity is coming from the far-right,“ she added.
"The murder of Jo Cox and the outrage in Finsbury Park show that this is not a minor threat. Rather than demonising Muslims and contributing to Islamophobia, we call on politicians and the media to take the growing threat of far-right violence and terrorism as seriously as it does Isis-type terrorism.”
Those arrested are:
- A 24-year-old man from Seaforth, Merseyside, on suspicion of preparation of a terrorist act, funding terrorism and membership of a proscribed organisation.
- A 23-year-old man from Newton-le-Willows, Merseyside, on suspicion of preparation of a terrorist act, funding terrorism and membership of a proscribed organisation.
- A 33-year-old man from Prescot, Merseyside, on suspicion of preparation of a terrorist act, funding terrorism and membership of a proscribed organisation.
- A 31-year-old man from Warrington, Cheshire, on suspicion of preparation of a terrorist act, funding terrorism and membership of a proscribed organisation.
- A 35-year-old man from Warrington, Cheshire, on suspicion of preparation of a terrorist act, funding terrorism and membership of a proscribed organisation.
- A 22-year-old man from Lancashire has been produced from prison for police interview on suspicion of preparation of a terrorist act and membership of a proscribed organisation.
- A 28-year-old man from Swansea, Wales, on suspicion of membership of a proscribed organisation and possession of terrorism material/documents.
- A 23-year-old man from Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire, on suspicion of membership of a proscribed organisation.
- A 23-year-old-man from Swansea, Wales, on suspicion of membership of a proscribed organisation.
- A 26-year-old man from Leeds, West Yorkshire, on suspicion of membership of a proscribed organisation.
- A 30-year-old man from Wiltshire on suspicion of membership of a proscribed organisation.
Additional reporting by PA