The West must wake up to the threat of Islamic State-Khorasan

It is time to wake up to the growing international threat posed by Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K), the group believed to be behind Friday’s terror attack on a Moscow concert hall that left more than 130 people dead. For far too long this Afghanistan-based offshoot of Islamic State, formed in 2015, has been underestimated. Ignoring it is no longer a safe or wise policy option. Alarm bells have been sounding for some time now about the growing threat posed by IS-K IS-K has been growing in strength in Taliban-led Afghanistan ever since the Americans pulled out of the country in 2021. It has been successful in attracting a growing number of

How Britain and France learned to live with terror

Emmanuel Macron told his people last summer they would have to learn to live with Covid. A year-and-a-half on, France is unrecognisable to the country it once was: Covid passports are in force and face masks remain mandatory in many places. The president of France is not alone among Western leaders in his uncompromising approach to the pandemic: Holland, Austria and Germany are re-imposing restrictions and Boris Johnson, who used the ‘learn to live with it’ line in July, has refused to rule out a Christmas lockdown. Yet while Europe’s presidents and prime ministers appear ready to go to any length to protect their people from this virus, their approach to another

Rethinking MPs’ safety is not a victory for terrorism

Whenever a killing is investigated as an act of terror, there is always a tendency to think that any changes made are a victory for terrorism. While a few MPs have called for changes to how constituency surgeries are held, many more want them to carry on as they were.  But as I say in the magazine this week, given the circumstances, the rethink of MPs’ safety should be a practical exercise, not a philosophical one. In response to IRA bombing campaigns, Margaret Thatcher put a gate across Downing Street. Without it, an IRA mortar would have killed the war cabinet in 1991. That was not a ‘victory’ for the terrorists but a wise

Britain isn’t ready for the next wave of returning jihadis

Ever since British jihadists flocked to join Isis in Iraq and Syria, the government has attempted to keep the terrorists away by killing them on the battlefield and stripping the survivors of their citizenship. Those who have slipped through the net and made it back home have faced mandatory deradicalisation programs, or – in the most extreme cases – constant surveillance. But this costly, ineffective strategy has prioritised the rights and freedoms of returning jihadists over the safety of innocent people. And the approach is now likely to face another test, as the 425 or so Isis fighters and spouses who have returned are expected to be joined by their former twisted

Isis’s weakness is now its strength

As coronavirus swept the globe a year ago, Isis began issuing pronouncements. ‘God, by his will, sent a punishment to the tyrants of this time and their followers,’ said one such; ‘we are pleased about this punishment from God for you.’ With the world on lockdown, Isis followers were urged not to sit around at home but to ‘raid the places’ of the enemies of God. ‘Don’t let a single day pass without making their lives awful.’ The virus might have begun as God’s punishment to China for persecuting the Uighurs but, as one Isis video put it, the pandemic was a chance to attack Americans, Europeans, Australians and Canadians.

How can we save youngsters from getting radicalised?

Arrests for terrorist-related activity give a worrying insight into the rate at which young people are being targeted and radicalised. All age groups witnessed a fall in terror-related arrests for the year ending September 2020, except for one: those under eighteen, which doubled to account for eight (and subsequently 10) per cent of all such arrests. This is the highest proportion ever seen in any annual period to date. We also know that, all too often, the friends and relatives of those who are in danger of becoming radicalised are failing to act on their concerns. Referrals to Prevent, which aims to ‘stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism’, saw

Relative values: how extremism spreads through families

Isis supporter Sahayb Abu has been convicted of plotting a sword attack on the streets of Britain. But the 27-year-old isn’t the only member of his family who has succumbed to extremist ideology. In 2015, two of Abu’s half-brothers joined Isis in Syria; both are believed to have died in the fighting. In 2018, another half-brother Ahmed Aweys and half-sister Asma Aweys and her partner were jailed for terror offences, including sharing Isis material in a family chat group The case of Abu is just one of a number in the UK in recent years which have seen multiple family members committing terrorist offences together, or who have committed separate

It’s time to take Britain’s Incel terror threat seriously

Far-right and Islamist extremism are both cause for concern in Britain today. But there’s another threat which all too often slips under the radar.  Referrals to the UK government’s Prevent programme in 2019/20 presenting a ‘Mixed, Unstable or Unclear’ ideology accounted for 51 per cent of all referrals ‒ up from just 11 per cent in 2016/17. This represents a significant rise for the third consecutive year. Despite this, emerging ideologies – especially Inceldom – still aren’t receiving the attention they warrant. The term ‘Mixed, Unstable and Unclear’ describes instances where individuals exhibit a combination of elements from multiple ideologies (mixed); shift between different ideologies (unstable); or where there appears

What’s keeping terrorism experts awake at night?

This keeps me up at night. Have you come across this expression of pained anguish lately? This isn’t about conversations with friends or loved one’s on Covid, returning to work or never working again. I’m talking about news stories on national security and terrorism, where experts and counter-terrorism officials are interviewed and feel duty-bound to disclose that they can’t sleep at night. The number of these individuals who haven’t had a decent night’s sleep of late is frankly quite alarming. ‘This keeps me up at night,’ terrorism scholar John Horgan told Slate’s Aymann Ismail last November. He was referring to the gathering storm of far-right extremism in America. ‘I think

Britain’s prisons are a breeding ground for Islamist terror

Was Reading terrorist Khairi Saadallah radicalised behind bars? What we do know is that locking Saadallah in HMP Bullingdon to develop a ‘close’ relationship with radical cleric Omar Brooks was an extraordinary lapse in operational security. Only 16 days after leaving the prison, the violent, troubled and combat experienced Saadallah launched his murderous attack in Reading. At the very least, it is clear that prison served little purpose in stopping him. Once again, this raises the question of whether Britain’s jails are a breeding ground for radicalisation. When one of this country’s most notorious apologists for terrorism Anjem Choudary was locked up five years ago, there was much speculation as to

What lessons can we learn from the case of Khairi Saadallah?

Khairi Saadallah is a name that should not be forgotten in a hurry. Found guilty of the murders of James Furlong, David Wails, and Joe Ritchie-Bennett, Saadallah was yesterday given a whole-life jail term for the June 2020 terrorist attack in Reading’s Forbury Gardens. He will never leave prison. We shouldn’t, though, remember Saadallah’s name because of his crimes, but in order to learn lessons from the catalogue of blunders that left him free to kill. While the whole-life prison sentence handed is welcome, the case of Khairi Saadallah represents a fundamental failure of epic proportions in the British justice system. Saadallah was previously convicted for a string of knife-related offences and racially-aggravated

Europe’s cities are becoming a refuge for Islamist extremists

Britain’s terror threat level has been upgraded to ‘severe’ this week, following jihadist attacks in both France and Austria. Raising a terror alert is not enough though to stop more attacks. The government’s security and bureaucratic response to terror is always playing catch-up and constantly on the defensive. And unless we take the time to understand the enemy, we cannot force it into retreat and defeat. We must first of all be honest. Our country and compatriots depend on us getting this right. The threat we currently face is not about racism – which is why Christian Nigerians or Hindu Indians do not become terrorists in the West. It is