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The Met’s deputy assistant commissioner, Neil Basu, warned there was a “definite problem” of second-generation Brits being radicalised through the “toxic combination” of isolation and extremist online content.
He said that fears over attacks from overseas had been replaced by the danger posed by home-grown jihadists.
These jihadists are harder for the police to profile as would-be attackers could come from a variety of backgrounds and ages.
Mr Basu said: “The threat was the traveller or the returning fighter, who was battle-hardened and even angrier, but now it’s the threat in our midst.
“We stopped a lot of those would-be jihadists travelling too and some of those remain committed to their cause. If they can’t travel, then why not attack us here.
“There is also a definite problem in segregated and isolated communities and with what I think is an even more extreme second generation. The [suspects] have been the educated, they have been the illiterate and they have been the completely unknown.”
Speaking at the Police Superintendents’ Association conference, Mr Basu said police are dealing with nearly 600 active investigations after a “summer like no other” that saw major attacks in Manchester and London.
The attacks led to a “massive spike” in the number of calls to the national terrorism hotline, trebling the number of leads. “Those numbers are just going to keep increasing,” Mr Basu said.
He said disenfranchised groups were being radicalised by propaganda delivered in “six-second soundbites through their handheld devices 24/7”.
“Segregated and isolated communities, unregulated and home schooling are a breeding ground for extremism and future terrorism,” the officer said.
Salman Abedi, 22, the suicide bomber who detonated a home-made device that killed 22 at the Manchester Arena in May, was born in England to Libyan parents. He dropped out of university and reportedly became radicalised while living in the city.
Mr Basu added that police would not be able to “arrest our way out of this” and communities needed to be encouraged to speak out.
He also called on internet companies to take responsibility for how their services may be used to share extremist content and provide a means for terrorists to communicate.
London News & Search