Monday, March 07, 2016

07-Mar-16: In the UK, the jihadist threat now has Scotland Yard's full attention

Ms Dare's older son, aged 4 [Image Source]
The child in the image on the right is four years old. Speaking with a British accent and dressed in military fatigues, he is the central figure in a ten-minute-long ISIS propaganda video that got considerable media coverage in January 2016.

Without exaggerating, it's a hideous production. The little boy points off in the distance and says, “We will kill kuffar [infidels] over there.” Before it's over, the clip shows five shackled men dressed in orange boilersuits who are said to have “confessed” to spying for the UK. They are then killed.

The boy is the son of a notorious Islamist zealot, Khadijah (nee Grace) Dare, the daughter of a Christian family from Nigeria who raised her in Lewisham, UK. Despite her good Catholic school education, she transplanted herself to the killing-fields of Syria in 2012 in order to marry a Swede with the adopted nom-de-guerre Abu Bakr and who is now thought to be dead. Mrs Dare-Bakr "used social media to gloat about the beheading of the American journalist James Foley and said she wanted to be the first British woman to kill" a hostage, evidently by removing his head. A serious-minded person, she "missed junk food and Chinese takeaways, but said she would never return home" [Telegraph UK, January 4, 2016].

As well as the little boy in the photo above, she has a second son who is younger still. It's not clear when he will be pressed into serving the Islamist cause, but the path ahead of him seems to be clear.

How serious is the existential threat posed by the unchecked spread of ideological terrorism? We think the answer is "very" and have been saying so for 14 years. The masthead of this blog includes some language intended to express that deep concern.

Not everyone agrees with us. 
Madrid, March 11, 2004 [Image Source]

In the next few daysSpain will mark the anniversary of 11-M, the name they give to the March 11, 2004 jihadist massacre at Madrid's Atocha central train station [see our blog post "8-May-14: Madrid moments"]In the dozen years since it happened, the atrocity has been the subject of a kind of partisan tug-of-war over how it ought to be understood. Compare, for instance, an article in The Guardian ["The worst Islamist attack in European history", October 31, 2007], with Wikipedia's survey of the Spanish voices - notably including El Mundo and La Razon newspapers - that claim it was not the Islamists at all but a consortium of other malevolents, among them the police and the Basque separatists of ETA.

For some people, warnings about how badly the battle against the terrorists is going are treated as noise and dismissed as causing more confusion than clarification. Some others pay lip-service (this includes public figures from among the many we have personally encountered) but their actions show they are not convinced and don't regard the dangers as serious or the warnings actionable.

Today, the "UK's national head of counter- terrorism" gave a media briefing from which we have extracted some bullet pointed quotes below. His views are being translated into action, and though we are not close enough to the UK to appreciate how seriously this is being taken by the wider public, his views seem to be mainstream.

Mark Rowley has been the Assistant Commissioner for Specialist Operations in the Metropolitan Police Service for the past four and a half years. That's the body that, with its tens of thousands of employed officers, police staff, Community Support Officers and volunteer police, provides greater London with policing services. When people speak of Scotland Yard, they mean the MPS. The Guardian calls Rowley the policeman who "leads on counter-terrorism for Scotland Yard".

[Image Source]
Some of what he said today:
  • The nature of the threat from ISIS is changing. "Going from [a] narrow focus on police and military as symbols of the state to something much broader. And you see a terrorist group which has big ambitions for enormous and spectacular attacks, not just the types that we've seen foiled to date..." [Telegraph UK, today]
  • Where, in the recent past, ISIS was thought to be trying to incite small-scale attacks by individuals, using knives or vehicles, their goals seem much broader now, In the wake of the Friday 13th massacre in Paris during November, Rowley and other counter-terrorism chiefs believe ISIS has "the capability and intent to stage a mass-casualty attack in the west".
  • Rowley said ISIS "is trying to get supporters who have received military training in Syria into northern Europe to stage attacks". What sort of alarm bells ought this insight to be ringing in those European countries currently swamped with waves - hundreds of thousands - of newly-arrived and still-arriving "refugees" said to be fleeing the blood-letting in Syria?
  • Abdelhamid Abaaoud, regarded as the ringleader of the Paris terrorism attacks [we have some interesting things to say about him here], is now known to have visited Birmingham and London during 2015. "Found on his phone were pictures taken during his visit to fellow jihadis. Rowley declined to comment on this." [The Guardian, today]
  • ISIS recruiters are increasingly targeting (a) people with mental illnesses (b) women and (c) teenagers, and they are successfully drawing them in. In terms of 2015 arrests under counter-terrorism laws in the UK, 77% were British nationals, 14% were female and 13% were 20 or younger. The Guardian quotes him saying "Over half of those arrested on suspicion of terrorism offences ended up being charged with a terrorism offence."
  • Dozens of children were “safeguarded” (a police expression) during 2015. These interventions arose because their parents tried to take them to Syria or Iraq, or because of suspicions that they were being radicalised.
  • The overall view taken by the authorities is that the terrorists still want to kill soldiers or the police but are increasingly focused on "attacking western lifestyle targets".
  • About those re-education and community-based efforts to intercept would-be jihadists before they get completely weaponized, this sobering comment from The Guardian: "Privately, counter-terrorism officials see no sign of ISIS’s internet propaganda campaign being thwarted by community and government efforts and believe the group still has the same ability to attract devotees."
If the police analysis is even half right, there's good reason for the UK's citizens to be seriously agitated.

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