Far-right extremism to be included in official terror warnings alongside Islamist threat for first time, government announces

Change shows recognition of growing threat from far right, since the murder of 50 Muslims in New Zealand

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Tuesday 23 July 2019 16:01
The Home Office is acting after ‘an increase in terrorist activity motivated by the extreme right wing’
The Home Office is acting after ‘an increase in terrorist activity motivated by the extreme right wing’

The growing threat from “extreme right-wing” terrorism will be included in official threat-level warnings for the first time, the home secretary has announced.

Until now, the alerts – which tell the public if the risk is low, substantial or critical – have taken into account the threat of attack from Islamists only.

The change follows growing recognition of the rising threat from the far right, since the murder of 50 Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March.

In the same month, it emerged that four of the 18 terrorist plots that had been thwarted in the UK in the preceding three years had come from the far right.

Sajid Javid, the home secretary, said: “Our approach to stopping terrorists is the same, regardless of the twisted ideology that motivates them.

“While the Islamist threat remains, we have recently seen an increase in terrorist activity motivated by the extreme right wing.

“It is therefore important the public is properly informed about the threats we face, which is why we are making these changes.”

Mr Javid also announced a change to the definitions of the risk to “ensure clarity in the threat level system”.

Two further levels will be added – moderate, between low and substantial, and severe, between substantial and critical – to make five in total.

However, the additions do not affect the current threat level, which remains at severe – meaning “an attack is highly likely”.

Mr Javid said the inclusion of far-right terrorism had been recommended in an operational review by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre.

Until today, the threat level system described the threat from “international terrorism”, which had become largely synonymous with Islamist terrorism.

However, this is now seen as outdated for the further reason that Islamist terrorism can be home-grown, just as extreme right-wing terrorism can have an international dimension. Combatting far-right violence was once the responsibility of the police but top-level plots and suspects begin by being investigated by MI5, Britain’s domestic intelligence agency.

Of the 394 individuals who received support from the Channel programme, to counter potential violent extremism, in 2017-18, 44 per cent were referred for concerns related to right-wing extremism, and 45 per cent in respect of Islamist extremism.

As far back as March, Theresa May’s spokesman noted “a pattern of concern that the threat from the far right is on the rise”.

The new five-level threat warning system will be:

• critical – meaning an attack is highly likely in the near future;

• severe – meaning an attack is highly likely;

• substantial – meaning an attack is likely;

• moderate – meaning an attack is possible but not likely;

• low – meaning an attack is highly unlikely.

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