Hate preachers in the UK to be treated as ‘priority threat’ amid extremism resurgence concerns

Hate preachers in the UK to be treated as ‘priority threat’ amid extremism resurgence concerns
The British government’s counter-terrorism strategy will treat hate preachers as a “priority threat” as concerns rise about a revival of Islamist terrorism. (File/AFP)
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Updated 06 June 2021

Hate preachers in the UK to be treated as ‘priority threat’ amid extremism resurgence concerns

Hate preachers in the UK to be treated as ‘priority threat’ amid extremism resurgence concerns
  • Approach likely to encourage anti-extremism officials to intervene over hateful extremism even when there is no evidence of a link to terrorism

LONDON: The British government’s counter-terrorism strategy will treat hate preachers as a “priority threat” as concerns rise about a revival of Islamist terrorism.
Ministers are preparing to instruct counter-terrorism officials to monitor and “disrupt” the activities of those who “promote fear and division” without committing terrorist acts, British newspaper the Daily Telegraph has reported.
The move could lead to officials and police attempting to prevent certain extremists from giving out material on the streets and holding large events, and challenging them when they speak in public, a former counter-terrorism officer suggested.
The decision comes after a review by the government’s extremism commissioner, Sara Khan, and the former head of counter-terrorism policing, Sir Mark Rowley, warned that many “hateful extremists” who are not carrying out terrorist activities are able to operate with “impunity,” the newspaper reported.
It said that extremists were “creating a ‘chilling’ impact on freedom of expression,” and singled out Cage, an advocacy group whose “senior leaders have advocated supporting violent jihad overseas.”
The review accused the group of attempting to label efforts to counter extremism as Islamophobic.
However, the government is believed to have rejected a separate recommendation by the review that ministers should expand current criminal offenses relating to stirring up hatred.
“There will be a new flexibility to take on groups and ideologies that do not meet the terrorism threshold but contribute to the wider environment in which terrorism can get a foothold, including those that promote fear, division and alienation from democracy and the rule of law,” the paper quoted a Whitehall source as saying.
The approach is likely to encourage anti-extremism officials to intervene over hateful extremism even when there is no evidence of a link to terrorism.
Currently, the government’s anti-extremism program focuses on preventing people from being drawn into terrorism.
Officials also fear that a resurgence of Islamist extremism could be behind the rise in anti-Semitism in the UK.
Ministers are understood to have agreed a new way of dealing with extremist groups under existing legislation, which includes focusing resources on “disrupting” those who are seen to create an environment which can lead to terror.


Fear stalks northern Afghan city as Taliban lay siege

Fear stalks northern Afghan city as Taliban lay siege
Updated 57 min 14 sec ago

Fear stalks northern Afghan city as Taliban lay siege

Fear stalks northern Afghan city as Taliban lay siege
  • The Taliban have held Kunduz twice in recent years — both times briefly — but have now captured the surrounding districts and the main border crossing with Tajikistan
  • Violence surged after the US military began the withdrawal of its last remaining 2,500 troops from the country to meet a September 11 deadline

KUNDUZ, Afghanistan: Fear stalked Kunduz Thursday as residents prepared for a lengthy siege, with government forces patrolling the streets and Taliban insurgents surrounding the northern Afghan city.
The Taliban have held the city twice in recent years — both times briefly — but have now captured the surrounding districts and the main border crossing with Tajikistan.
“The Taliban have besieged our city,” said Qudratullah, a fruit seller who has done hardly any business since fighting first erupted in Kunduz province two weeks ago.
“Even today there is sporadic fighting on the outskirts of the city,” said Qudratullah, who like many Afghans uses only one name.
“If the government does not launch an operation against the Taliban, their siege will continue for a long time.”
Most businesses in Kunduz remained shut and vehicles stayed off the roads, an AFP correspondent who toured the city reported.
Dozens of military vehicles patrolled the streets as new government forces were deployed in the city of around 300,000, swelled by an influx of rural residents fleeing fighting in the districts.
Troops were seen firing sporadically at Taliban positions, and the bodies of two insurgents lay on the ground on the eastern edge of Kunduz.
The city’s public health director told AFP that since the fighting erupted a week ago, 21 civilians have been killed and 225 wounded.
Residents said they were suffering from water and power cuts, and few shops were open.
Kunduz resident Hasib said he feared the Taliban would soon launch a major offensive on the city.
“We don’t feel safe... We have seen the Taliban capture the city twice before, and we do not want the city to fall again to them,” he said.
“The government forces should break the Taliban siege, if not the Taliban will continue their offensives... and their siege will continue forever.”
Fighting has raged across Kunduz province for days, with the Taliban and Afghan forces engaged in bloody battles.
On Tuesday the insurgents captured Shir Khan Bandar, Afghanistan’s main border crossing with Tajikistan, in one of their most significant gains in recent months.
On Thursday, Afghan authorities attempted to put on a brave front, with Interior Minister Abdul Satar Mirzakwal flying in for a brief visit.
“Saving and protecting Kunduz is among our top priorities,” he said in a video message released to reporters.
“We are taking serious measures and will provide more weapons and technical equipment to Afghan forces in all provinces.”
Since early May, the Taliban have launched several major offensives targeting government forces across the rugged countryside and say they have seized at least 87 of the country’s more than 400 districts.
Many of their claims are disputed by the government and difficult to independently verify.
Violence surged after the US military began the withdrawal of its last remaining 2,500 troops from the country to meet the September 11 deadline announced by President Joe Biden to end America’s longest war.


Poland withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, says president

Poland withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, says president
Updated 24 June 2021

Poland withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, says president

Poland withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, says president
  • Foreign troops under NATO command will withdraw from Afghanistan by September 11
  • First troops would return to Poland on Thursday night

WARSAW: Poland will withdraw its troops from Afghanistan at the end of June, President Andrzej Duda said on Thursday, bringing its two-decade presence in the country to an end.
NATO allies agreed in April that foreign troops under NATO command will withdraw from Afghanistan in coordination with a US pull-out by Sept. 11.
“At the end of June, after 20 years, we are ending our military involvement in the largest NATO operation in history,” Duda wrote on Twitter, adding that the first troops would return to Poland on Thursday night.
After withdrawing, the United States and NATO aim to rely on Afghan military and police forces, which they have developed with billions of dollars in funding, to maintain security.


UK Muslim convert reunited with ex-far-right father

A Muslim convert has reunited with her father, who shunned her for half a decade after he became involved with the far-right English Defence League (EDL), members pictured here in 2016. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
A Muslim convert has reunited with her father, who shunned her for half a decade after he became involved with the far-right English Defence League (EDL), members pictured here in 2016. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
Updated 24 June 2021

UK Muslim convert reunited with ex-far-right father

A Muslim convert has reunited with her father, who shunned her for half a decade after he became involved with the far-right English Defence League (EDL), members pictured here in 2016. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
  • Faith Abbey was shunned by her dad for 5 years when he developed anti-Islam views, joined English Defence League
  • ‘It’s from my religion to be forgiving and caring and loving’

LONDON: A Muslim convert has reunited with her father, who shunned her for half a decade after he became involved with the far-right English Defence League (EDL).

Faith Abbey, 28, had been close with her father until he developed what she described as “narrow-minded and rigid views on Muslims and their presence in the UK.”

He went on to join the EDL, established in 2009 and known for its Islamophobic and anti-immigrant stances.

Its members have regularly faced criminal proceedings for violence and hate crimes against Britain’s ethnic and religious minorities.

“He was in trouble with the police for various incidents related to the EDL, and realized he’d fallen in with the wrong kind of people,” Abbey said.

“He realized that the people in life who’ve been most kind to him and generous and forgiving are actually Muslims, and they’re kind people who are full of love, not hate. He also realized a lot of what the EDL believe about Muslims isn’t actually true.”

Abbey grew up in the UK, and told Metro newspaper that she was originally a Christian before converting to Islam nine years ago.

She said reuniting with her father over lunch in London was “one of the best days of (her) life.”

She added: “It was amazing. I’ve always loved my father and wanted him to be happy. It’s from my religion to be forgiving and caring and loving … I always loved him and wished the best for him.”


Jailed British white supremacist praised Christchurch killer

Jailed British white supremacist praised Christchurch killer
Updated 24 June 2021

Jailed British white supremacist praised Christchurch killer

Jailed British white supremacist praised Christchurch killer
  • Judge: Michael Nugent had ‘knowingly encouraged right-wing terrorism’
  • He created video celebrating Christchurch mosque massacre

LONDON: A British man who was jailed after encouraging terror attacks from his parents’ house praised Brenton Tarrant, who committed mass shootings in two mosques in Christchurch in 2019.

White supremacist Michael Nugent, 38, admitted five counts of disseminating terrorist publications, and 11 of possessing information useful to a terrorist.

He organized several messaging groups on Telegram, an app popular with extremists, where people shared terrorist manifestos and explosives manuals.

The court heard how he “honored” right-wing terrorists in his messaging groups, including Tarrant and Norwegian Anders Breivik.

Michael Nugent (London Metropolitan Police)

Nugent described Tarrant’s mass murder of 51 Muslims as a “game-changer,” and created a celebration video on the one-year anniversary.

Nugent disseminated Tarrant’s manifesto, published after the massacre, which encouraged others to launch similar attacks. “I understand why Tarrant did what he did,” he wrote on Telegram.

As he was sentenced on Wednesday, Judge Peter Lodder QC told Nugent he had “knowingly encouraged right-wing terrorism.”

Jailing him for three-and-a-half years, Lodder added: “You did not work but spent all of your time at home in your parents’ house, where from your bedroom you developed your online extremist persona.

“You posted toxic, offensive material to websites and administered groups which were dedicated to violent racist, antisemitic and neo-Nazi ideology.

“Whatever your mental health at the time, no-one concludes that you weren’t aware of what you were doing.” The court was told that Nugent suffered from psychosis.

He wrote in a diary, seized by police, that he wanted to see ethnic minorities “sent home” and “sterilized.”

One section said: “We are being genocided in our own homes and our own country … Terrorism is the only way out of it.”

Nugent’s lawyer Liam Walker said the defendant “does not recognize the person he was at the time or the views he held.”

Walker said Nugent’s family had described him as a “withdrawn man, agoraphobic in his habits.”

Richard Smith, head of the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command, said: “This is another case which shows how harmful online extremism is. That is why it is important that anyone who believes that they have a friend or loved one who they think has been radicalized, or is vulnerable, seeks help.”


Africa CDC says continent not winning against ‘brutal’ COVID-19 pandemic

Africa CDC says continent not winning against ‘brutal’ COVID-19 pandemic
Updated 24 June 2021

Africa CDC says continent not winning against ‘brutal’ COVID-19 pandemic

Africa CDC says continent not winning against ‘brutal’ COVID-19 pandemic
  • About 1.12 percent people have been fully vaccinated on a continent that has recorded 5.2 million infections

HARARE, Zimbabwe: Africa is not winning its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic as a third virus wave sweeps the continent and countries struggle to access enough vaccines for their populations, Africa CDC director John Nkenkasong said on Thursday.
The COVAX program co-led by the World Health Organization (WHO) for fair distribution of vaccines is now planning a shake-up as it has been shunned by rich countries and failing to meet the needs of the poorest, internal documents seen by Reuters show.
Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) director Nkenkasong said he was more worried about getting vaccines in time regardless of where the doses came from.
“The third wave has come with severity that most countries were not prepared for. So the third wave is extremely brutal,” Nenkasong said during a weekly online briefing.
“Let me put it bluntly, we are not winning in Africa this battle against the virus so it does not really matter to me whether the vaccines are from COVAX or anywhere. All we need is rapid access to vaccines.”
Nkenkasong said at least 20 countries were in the middle of the third wave, with Zambia, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo among those whose health facilities were being overwhelmed.
The COVAX program’s initial lofty ambitions to act as a clearing house for the world’s vaccines, collecting from the manufacturers in the most developed countries and quickly distributing to those in the most urgent need, have fallen flat.
About 1.12 percent people have been fully vaccinated on a continent that has recorded 5.2 million infections, Nkenkasong said.
More than half of poorer countries receiving doses via COVAX do not have enough supplies to continue, an official from the WHO said on Monday.