The author of an extensive report into terrorism by a foreign policy thinktank says that a rise in far right terrorism could have come as a reaction to attacks by Islamists.
Tom Wilson, report author and research fellow in the Centre on Radicalisation & Terrorism at the Henry Jackson Society, told Julia Hartley-Brewer that “there has been a very noticeable increase” in far right attacks, “but if anyone’s using the rise of the far right as an excuse to distract away or not to focus on the Islamist threat, which is still by far the greatest threat, we put ourselves in a far worse situation.”
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The report by the Henry Jackson Society (HJS) compared data on terror attacks in the Western world from 2016 and 2017, and found that the UK saw 693 people injured or killed by terrorism over that time period.
It calls the UK the ‘number one target’ for Western terrorism.
The report also found that almost 55% of Islamist attackers were previously known to authorities, almost 67% were immigrants or visitors (either legally or illegally) to the country in which they attacked, and the number of terror attacks aimed at the UK increased from five to 13.
'Fourfold increase' in far right attacks
Tributes to Jo Cox left on the first anniversary of her death in 2017. Image: Getty
As well as attacks by Islamists such as the Westminster attack, the Manchester bombing and the London Bridge attack, in March, May and June 2017 respectively, there was also a notable rise in attacks by the far right over the past two years, with the report finding a fourfold increase across the world.
Labour MP Jo Cox was killed by Nazi-obsessed Thomas Mair in June 2016, and in February this year, Darren Osborne was jailed for life for the murder of Makram Ali and attempted murder of several others when he drove a van into Muslims outside Finsbury Park Mosque in June 2017. He was described as having an “ideology of hate towards Muslims”.
The report also found an increase of almost 56% in far left terrorism.
Terrorists returning from abroad 'more of a threat'
The report also found that radicalised people who’d undertaken training abroad may pose more of a threat.
“Islamist assailants who’d travelled back from conflict zones, who’d had training and seen armed combat, killed far more people than those who hadn’t had training,” said Mr Wilson.
“It’s relevant to this concern about returning foreign fighters from other places, from Syria for instance.
“We know those people are going to pose much more of a security risk than those who remained in the UK.”
Hartley-Brewer asked if there was a “politically correct urge” from some media to focus on far right attackers.
“It’s not a case of ‘we’re seeing a rise in the far right, therefore we were mistaken to talk about the Islamists, the far right is the real issue here’,” Mr Wilson said.
“There has been a very noticeable increase, and also the far right attacks have become more violent, better organised and more determined.
“So we do need to look at that, but if anyone’s using the rise of the far right as an excuse to distract away or not to focus on the Islamist threat, which is still by far the greatest threat, we put ourselves in a far worse situation.
“We also have to look at the degree to which the uptick in the far right attacks may in part have come as a reaction, exploiting the terror attacks we’ve seen previously, as the far right growth came the year after a major increase in Islamist attacks.”