I have written a paper setting out how the Internet is used by terrorists – from radicalisation and recruitment, to communication, planning attacks and spreading violent narratives. It also begins to explores some of the ways that governments and civil society do – and could – use the Internet as a weapon against terrorists. But more work is needed on this issue of growing importance, as highlighted last week by the Home Affairs Select Committee report on the roots of radicalisation.
It has just been announced that nine men have been sentenced for their role in plotting terrorist attacks in the UK. The plotted to blow up the London Stock Exchange and build a terrorist training camp. Three of the men received indeterminate sentences. The men come from Stoke-on-Trent, Cardiff and London. It is another reminder that, although the absolute threat level seems to have come down in recent years, there are still individuals looking to cause terror. Something we need to keep at the front of our minds in the lead up to the London Olympic Games this Summer.
The UK Parliament Home Affairs Select Committee has published the results of its enquiry into the roots of radicalisation. They conclude that:
- Radicalisation is declining within Muslim communities in the UK, but there has been a growth in right-wing violent extremism;
- The UK government should collate and make available – where possible – data from the Channel programme of interventions with individuals deemed to be at risk from radicalisation;
- Grievance is a driver for radicalisation, which means that tackling Islamophobia needs to be part of the Prevent strategy;
- There needs to be a stronger emphasis within the Prevent strategy on building trust in democratic institutions and the democratic process;
- The Internet seems to play a more important role in the radicalisation process than universities, religious institutions or universities;
- Further research is needed into the link between recruitment into radical groups and criminal gangs;
- More emphasis is needed on the threat from far right violent extremism;
- Clearer guidance is needed for universities about their role and there needs to be a clear contact point within government for student unions and university administrators;
- Gaps in support need to be plugged for prisoners being released back into the community, and there needs to be a more regular flow of information between prison and probation systems.
The report can be downloaded here.
I have written a new piece for the Institute for Strategic Dialogue on the changing face of al Qaeda. It traces four key trends – the shift from a centralised to de-centralised organisational model, the rise of lone wolves, the increasing reliance on the internet and a geographical reorientation. Read it here.
Six men from Birmingham have been charged with terrorism offences following raids on houses a few days ago. Four have been charged with preparing for an act of terrorism in the UK, and two with failing to disclose information. They will appear in court tomorrow.
It is a timely reminder of the ongoing threat from terrorism in the UK, but a reassuring sign of police arrests well in advance of an attack.
There is more information about the arrests here.
I contributed a piece to a RUSI collection exploring what new insights had been gleaned from the coroner’s inquests into the 7/7 bombings. My piece looked at the bombers themselves – their personal lives, relationships, behaviours, and actions. You can download the report here.
Over the last decade, many millions of pounds have been spent on efforts to prevent radicalisation. This ‘upstream’ work has included everything from intense personalised programmes with young people deemed to be ‘at risk’ of radicalisation, through to broader projects to build community resilience and provide positive alternatives to youth who might otherwise be attracted to radical violent rhetoric.
But how do we know if we are making a difference?
This paper puts forward some practical ideas about how governments could evaluate these projects and activities. I’m busy putting the theory into practice with some pan-European evaluation work over the next few months…