THOUSANDS of Britons are at risk of being radicalised, Theresa May warned yesterday, as she proposed an overhaul of the government’s anti-terror strategy in the wake of the killing of soldier Lee Rigby.
• Extremist groups face banning order tightening
• New online restrictions could be introduced
While the Home Secretary said “all the indications” suggested the 25-year-old was killed in a so-called “lone wolf” incident, legislation should be tightened to allow a lower limit for imposing bans on extremist groups.
With tensions running high following the murder of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers serviceman on a busy London street, the Metropolitan Police’s deputy assistant commissioner said the force was working “tirelessly and painstakingly” to uncover the circumstances of the attack.
Scotland Yard counter-terrorism officers arrested a 22-year-old man in the Highbury Grove area of the city yesterday on suspicion of conspiracy to murder Drummer Rigby, hours after members of the serviceman’s family visited the scene of his murder.
Three other men aged 21, 24, and 28 arrested on Saturday in connection with the death remained in custody last night.
Officials in Kenya yesterday confirmed one of the suspects, Michael Adebolajo, was arrested near the Somalian border three years ago after allegedly trying to join an Islamic militant group.
As questions continue to be asked of the security services over their role in monitoring Adebolajo and the other suspect, Michael Adebowale, 22, Mrs May said the government would look again at its strategy.
Asked whether she believed there were thousands at risk of radicalisation in the UK, she replied: “Potentially.”
A lower limit for imposing banning orders on extremist groups could be introduced, she suggested, stating that “we do need to look at the laws”.
“We do need to look, for example, at the question of whether perhaps we need to have banning orders to ban organisations that don’t meet the threshold for proscription,” she said.
Mrs May defended the “excellent” work of the security and intelligence agencies in the face of claims that mistakes were made in the handling of the two suspects, who were known to MI5.
A childhood friend of Adebolajo has claimed that the suspect was approached by MI5 six months ago and asked if he would work for the security service.
Mrs May refused to be drawn on the details of the case but said the security services worked in a “variety of ways” and would
“approach individuals from time to time”.
Kenyan police confirmed yesterday that Adebolajo was arrested in 2010 along with five other men, all of whom are believed to have been preparing to train and fight with the al-Shabaab terrorist group. He was later deported.
A spokeswoman for the Foreign Office confirmed that a British national was arrested in Kenya in 2010. “FCO provided consular assistance as normal for British nationals,” she said.
The Kenyan government had denied that Adebolajo had ever visited the country, but a spokesman explained there had been confusion as he was arrested under another name.
Both Adebolajo and Adebowale remain under armed guard in hospital, where they are in a stable condition after being shot and wounded by police in the aftermath of Wednesday’s killing.
Speaking outside Scotland Yard’s headquarters, deputy assistant commissioner Stuart Osborne appealed for people with information about the attackers to step forward.
He added: “We are pursuing a significant amount of CCTV, social media, forensic and intelligence opportunities and have active lines of inquiry. This remains an ongoing investigation, focused upon public safety and identifying any others that may be involved.”
Nine people have been arrested in connection with the killing.
A 29-year-old man arrested last Thursday on suspicion of conspiracy to murder has been released on bail, while two women aged 29 and 31 – also arrested last Thursday on suspicion of conspiracy to murder – have been released without charge.
Cabinet taskforce aims to tackle extremism at its root
A TASKFORCE which will scrutinise how best to tackle the threat posed by radical preachers and prevent radicalisation is to be set up in the wake of the murder of Lee Rigby, Downing Street has confirmed.
The taskforce will examine what powers can be used crack down on extremist activity and stop the recruitment of people in jails, schools, colleges, and mosques.
The Cabinet-level group, set up by Prime Minister David Cameron, will bring in intelligence and senior police officials when needed. It will monitor trends in radicalisation and tackle “poisonous narratives”, Downing Street said.
The group, which is expected to meet within weeks, will include Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Home Secretary Theresa May, Chancellor George Osborne, and other key ministers, as well as Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, and Andrew Parker, the director general of the Security Service.
It will be known as the Tackling Extremism and Radicalisation Taskforce (Terfor), according to the Mail on Sunday.
Downing Street said the group would focus on practical measures rather than become bogged down in theory about Britishness and cultural values.
The government wants work carried out to ensure religious leaders are not promoting extremist messages and wants mosque committees to be held to account for the choice of imams they make.
Home affairs select committee chairman Keith Vaz said: “The Prime Minister’s initiative although welcome should not be a prelude to another policy review. What we need is the implementation of recommendations and decisions.
“The taskforce looks a bit like a Cabinet committee. It should instead include those who hold the key to solutions: the universities, the places of worship, communities and the search engines and internet providers.
“To ‘prevent’ we must engage.”