Statement from the National Policing Lead for Counter Terrorism, Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley

26 August 2014

New Scotland Yard

We are appealing to the public, family members and friends to help identify aspiring terrorists; they may be about to travel abroad, have just returned or be showing signs of becoming radicalised.

Every reasonable person in the country has been touched by the pitiless murder of James Foley at the hands of Islamic State terrorists, and the murderer’s apparent British nationality has focused attention on extremism in the UK as well as the Middle East. Investigators are making significant progress but we will not be giving a running commentary.

Anyone with information is urged to contact police on the Anti-Terrorist Hotline 0800 789 321

Police activity has been escalating for many months now. The ongoing commitment to fight this threat has seen a significant rise in the number of Syria related arrests; the first half of this year has seen a total of 69 arrests made for a variety of offences including fundraising for terrorist activity through to the preparation and /or instigation of terrorism acts and travelling abroad for terrorist training. Such arrests are being made at a rate fivefold to that of 2013.

High priority operations, especially against those involved in attack planning or on the cusp have increased greatly. Port stops, and cash seizures have grown by over 50 per cent as we strive to disrupt terrorists.

Just recently counter terrorism police arrested a 19 year old man in Camberwell. He was charged with engaging in conduct of preparation for terrorist acts, and is now awaiting trial.

Another young man, previously unknown of as a terrorist risk, was arrested last week on suspicion of planning to leave the country to travel to Syria for terrorist acts. He remains in custody.

The biggest growth in Syrian related investigations has occurred in London and the West Midlands. The growth of dangerous individuals poses challenges for policing, especially when nearly half of Syria travellers of concern were not known as terrorist risks previously.

Hence we appeal to the public to help identify for us aspiring terrorists - they may be about to travel abroad, have just returned or be showing signs of becoming radicalised.

The Prevent programme has allowed us to work closely with other statutory agencies and community groups to identify those vulnerable to radicalisation and being drawn into terrorism and we are pressing ahead with all resources available to us to quell radicalisation at its earliest stages. There has been a large increase in preventative interventions with a 58 per cent increase in the number of Channel referrals since last year.

In tandem, we are working to have extremist material removed from the internet wherever it is found, to promote alternative messages and to disrupt the work of extremist speakers and terrorist recruiters, prosecuting wherever appropriate. In the last four years the MPS Counter Terrorism Internet Referal Unit has instigated the removal of over 45,000 pieces of online content.

At the moment the unit is removing approximately 1,100 pieces of TACT (Terrorism Act 2006) breaching content. Approximately 800 of these are Syria/Iraq related and posted on multiple platforms, including YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, although this is not an exhaustive list.

This approach is in concert with our unwavering determination to bring all those involved in terrorism and other extremist behaviour to justice wherever possible.

The decision made by Parliament recently to safeguard the capability of law enforcement to obtain access to communications data is crucial to our efforts and, with all areas of our security community working resolutely side by side, our determination against terrorism has never been stronger. We welcome the debate on additional powers to tackle new threats and will feed our views to the Home Office on which proposals we see as helpful and practical.

We are also working hard to prevent hate crimes in our communities which have risen as a direct result of the events occurring overseas. We have already seen that some people have exploited the strength of feeling about the situation in Gaza to carry out anti-Semitic attacks. In the same way there is a danger that some extremists use the revulsion felt by many towards the Islamic State to justify attacking Muslim people or places of worship. Reports of such activity are taken very seriously by police who are working with other agencies and community groups to safeguard community cohesion and ensure that extremists are not able to exploit this situation to bring tensions brought about by conflicts abroad to the streets of this country.

There is a lot at stake. In addition to the public assistance in identifying potential terrorists we all need community and religious leaders to continue to speak out against warped narratives and we need everyone to ensure that public debate does not give oxygen to the terrorists by giving them the publicity they seek.

Anyone with information is urged to contact police on the Anti-Terrorist Hotline 0800 789 321; all calls will be treated with the strictest confidence.