How Serious is the Terrorist Threat for the UK?

foley

Alors que la Syrie s’enlise dans la guerre civile, de nombreux citoyens européens, souvent très jeunes, se radicalisent à l’islamisme intégriste et se font enrôler pour partir au Moyen-Orient faire le Djihad. La récente vidéo montrant l’assassinat de James Foley par un djihadiste britannique a choqué le Royaume-Uni et remis en cause tout le système de sécurité mis en place par la cellule anti-terroriste.

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The UK’s top counter-terrorism officer, Mark Rowley, reacted immediately after James Foley’s murder to reassure all UK citizens that drastic measures would soon be taken to fight all kinds of terrorist threats. The number of arrests since the beginning of the year for terrorism-related offences has increased dramatically and the antiterrorist unit has started an appeal for witnesses, among family members and friends, to help identifying aspiring terrorists and prevent them from going to Syria or Iraq.

Mark rowleyMark Rowley

This event raises the issue of Europe’s responsibility in the fight against terror. Even though this murder doesn’t represent a direct threat against the UK, this case can be compared to the Mohammed Merah case in France two years ago. It is a new issue that western countries and most of all the UK (according to the last figures, about 70 UK citizens left the country for the Jihad in Syria last year) will have to deal with in the next few years while the conflicts in Syria or in Iraq keep attracting European citizens brainwashed and appointed by secret organisations.

As for the James Foley case, the video broadcast showing the death of the journalist spread very fast for several hours on the Internet before Intelligence and Security agencies (from the UK and the US) removed all traces of the video from the web. These agencies assured they were close to identifying the murderer, a member of the terror group named the Islamic State which rages in the Middle East. The fact that Mr. Foley might have been executed by a Briton has focused attention on extremism in the UK as well as in the Middle East; this event triggered concern in public opinion, which until then had not realised how serious the situation actually was. For about 6 months now, the Police have tracked people suspected of travelling to the war zone (Iraq and Syria), fundraisers for terror activities or other members of organised groups planning terrorist acts. Mr. Rowley said “arrests are running at five times the rate of 2013 and port stops and seizures have increased by 50 per cent”, and with Mr. Foley’s murder now it might be the start of plenty of other arrests over the territory.

When he took this measure, the Metropolitan police head of counter-terrorism added that “the force was also trying to prevent hate crimes that may be sparked by the “revulsion” of the Foley murder”, the seriousness of the situation must not be underestimated.

But the UK isn’t alone in this situation: France or other Western countries in Europe are struggling with the same phenomenon, which is reaching more people every day. What answer can our democracies give to curb this disturbing trend? Nowadays, nobody has a real strategy to detect apprentice jihadists (the police can’t afford to be called racist and discriminate based on a person’s look) just as nobody has a strategy to counter the progression of the Islamic State.

Vincent DE VIVIE

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