LONDON: Britain’s counter-radicalization program is facing renewed scrutiny after it emerged that the man who murdered an MP late last week had received extensive support from the Prevent program before having his case closed.
The Guardian reported Wednesday that Ali Harbi Ali, who stabbed MP David Amess to death last Friday, was first referred to the deradicalization intervention scheme Prevent in 2014 over concerns that he was being drawn toward a radical Islamist ideology.
Ali was later sent on to a more intensive deradicalization program, Channel, designed to intervene against individuals viewed as most vulnerable to terrorist ideology and recruitment.
He voluntarily accepted a referral to the scheme and completed its processes.
This involved having his vulnerability assessed and accepting support, a source told the Guardian. The source said: “He went through the process and was discharged. He was not thought to pose a threat of terrorist violence and the case was closed.”
Seven years later, Ali murdered Amess, and the attack has been confirmed as a terrorism-related incident.
The Amess attack, and some that came before it, have prompted questions over the effectiveness of the Prevent program once an at-risk individual is enrolled in the deradicalization course.
The program was already under review when Ali killed Amess, following a wave of attacks in the mid to late 2010s that saw dozens of people die to terrorism across Britain — including many children in the Manchester arena bombing, and another MP, Jo Cox, who was shot dead in her constituency. Some attackers had been referred to Prevent and completed its courses.
The government missed the deadline for that review, meant to be Sep. 30, 2021, in the weeks leading up to Amess’ killing.
The results of the review will be published more than three years after it was undertaken. Not only was the review designed to ensure that people vulnerable to terrorist ideology were safeguarded effectively, but also to address criticisms that Muslims were unfairly targeted at higher rates than the wider population.
Out of 6,287 referrals to Prevent in the year to March 2020, more than half were for individuals with a mixed, unstable or unclear ideology.
Around a quarter of referrals were due to concerns over Islamist radicalization, and 22 percent related to right-wing radicalization.
The largest age group was children and young people aged 20 and under, including 1,559 children under the age of 15.
In the wake of Amess’ killing, British Home Secretary Priti Patel said she would ensure Prevent is “fit for purpose.”
“Prevent is going through an independent review right now. It’s timely to do that, we have to learn, we obviously constantly have to learn, not just from incidences that have taken place but how we can strengthen our programs,” said Patel.