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Prisoner attempts terror attack on guards at HMP Winchester amid radicalisation warnings

Xeneral Imiuru had no known history of extremism when he was jailed for a fatal acid attack in 2018

Lizzie Dearden
Security Correspondent
Wednesday 19 February 2020 12:56 GMT
17-year jail term for teenager Xeneral Webster who carried out UK's first acid attack killing

A convicted killer has launched what he claimed to be a jihadi terror attack on prison officers inside jail, prompting calls for “immediate action” against extremism in British prisons.

Xeneral Imiuru, also known as Xeneral Webster, is believed to have been radicalised after being jailed for Britain’s first fatal acid attack in July 2018.

The former gang member lured prison officers into his cell at HMP Winchester on Thursday by lying on the floor and forcing them to conduct a welfare check, The Independent understands.

When they entered, he attempted to attack them with an improvised weapon but was pinned down before he could injure anyone.

Imiuru immediately told the prison officers that he was attempting a jihadist terror attack, The Times reported.

A Prison Service spokesperson said: “Police are investigating an incident at HMP Winchester on 13 February.

“Violence against our hardworking staff will not be tolerated and those responsible will face tough punishment, including more time behind bars.”

Hampshire Police have not yet confirmed whether they are treating the incident as terror-related.

It came little over a month after a terror attack by two prisoners at HMP Whitemoor in Cambridgeshire.

On 9 January, two men wearing fake suicide vests injured five members of prison staff with bladed weapons.

One of the attackers was Brusthom Ziamani, an Isis supporter jailed over an attack plot in 2014 and who allegedly held “sharia courts” in his cell and radicalised fellow inmates.

The fact Imiuru, a violent criminal who had been associated with a London drug gang, had no known history of extremism will spark alarm amid mounting evidence of rampant Islamist extremism inside prisons.

Despite repeated warnings from official reports and the Parole Board over radicalisation and terrorist networking, the government pressed ahead with emergency laws to keep terrorists in prison for longer without a review of deradicalisation efforts.

Ian Acheson, a former prison governor who conducted a government-commissioned review of Islamist extremism inside prisons in 2016, accused the Ministry of Justice of “sophistry and obfuscation”.

“More evidence of the prison extremism threat is emerging daily,” he added. ”The scale is underreported. The threat is not being managed. We must have immediate, decisive action.”

Mr Acheson said the quick response by staff at HMP Winchester “prevented a catastrophe”, and urged ministers to listen to concerns and protect prison officers.

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Sarah Rigby, of the Prison Officers’ Association, said it was “very concerned to hear about yet another incident of violence directed towards our staff”.

“It is reassuring that [Imiuru] was segregated following concerns about his behaviour being highlighted,” she added.

“Yet again our members could have been seriously injured, it is only their accurate assessment of the situation and their professionalism that prevented a serious assault occurring.”

The new law, which passed through the House of Commons without a vote last week, means that terrorist offenders cannot be released automatically and must be risk-assessed two-thirds of the way through their sentence.

It was proposed after two knife attacks were launched by released terrorists in little over two months, in London Bridge and Streatham.

The two attackers – Usman Khan and Sudesh Amman – had been held in HMP Belmarsh, where an Isis supporter recently told a court he had shared “jihad banter” with fellow terrorists including the Parsons Green bomber.

According to the latest statistics available, there are 224 terrorist prisoners in custody in Britain – the vast majority of whom hold Islamist extremist views.

But up to 800 inmates at any one time are being monitored for suspected extremism, and prison officers suspect the number is far higher.

Sources have told The Independent that prison officers do not have the capacity or training to properly monitor radicalisation amid a crisis of drugs and violence.

“You’ve got someone who is in for five or six years, an ordinary criminal, and all of a sudden they are radicalised into hating anything about the west,” a prison officer working in the high-security estate previously said.

“There are lots of people who are more of a threat when they leave than when they come in.”

Xeneral Webster had a history of violence when he was jailed

Mr Acheson’s review recommended the creation of separation centres for the most dangerous inmates, but only one of three units set up as a result is currently in operation.

Radicalisation inside prisons has been flagged as a security threat across Europe, with what researchers call the “crime-terror nexus” seeing violent offenders drawn into extremism.

Numerous terror attacks have been carried out by convicted criminals, who may have been attracted to jihadi ideology because of searches for redemption, meaning or purpose.

Imiuru had a history of violence and had himself been severely injured by gang rivals by the time he was jailed for 17 years in July 2018.

Then 19, he admitted the manslaughter of nurse Joanne Rand, who was doused with the acid during a fight over drugs as she sat on a bench by her daughter’s grave.

Ms Rand, a 47-year-old nurse, died 11 days after being injured in High Wycombe after developing sepsis in hospital.

Imiuru was later convicted of a similar incident in March the same year, where he had injured a female bystander after throwing acid inside a west London cinema.

In October, he admitted a series of violent offences against prison guards, including grievous bodily harm, assault by beating and attacking a female officer by throwing urine.

The Times reported that Imiuru had been placed in segregation because of his behaviour towards prison staff, but had also displayed a growing interest in Islamism and attempted to contact terrorist prisoners.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “We have tough measures in place to prevent extremist prisoners spreading their poisonous ideology.

“Staff are trained to spot the signs and are supported by counterterrorism specialists in prisons. Those who pose a high risk can be removed from the main population, including relocation to a separation centre in the most serious cases.”

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