Britain is facing an increased threat from far-right terrorism, the outgoing head of U.K.’s counterterrorism command said.
In a Monday valedictory speech a few weeks before he leaves his post, Mark Rowley, London’s assistant commissioner for specialist operations of the Metropolitan Police Service, said police have foiled four such plots by right-wing extremists in the past year.
One-third of referrals to the government’s anti-radicalization program are now related to far-right terrorism, he added.
“The right-wing terrorist threat is more significant and more challenging than perhaps public debate gives it credit for,” Rowley said.
He said, “For the best part of 18 months in the U.K., we have a homegrown, white supremacist, neo-Nazi terrorist organization that is pursuing all of the ambitions of any other terrorist organization committed to violence … that should be a matter of great concern for all of us.”
There were five deadly attacks in the U.K. last year, including a terror attack against a crowd of Muslims leaving a mosque in Finsbury Park. The man who carried out the attack by driving a van into pedestrians, injuring at least eight people, was jailed for life this month and will spend at least 43 years behind bars.
Also, a far-right fanatic was jailed for life in 2016 for the murder of British politician Jo Cox during the European Union referendum campaign. He was heard saying as he stabbed her, “This is for Britain” and “Britain first.”
The murder was “committed to advance a political, racial and ideological cause … associated with Nazism,” the judge ruled.
Britain’s domestic security service MI5 is now involved in investigating the threat from the extreme-right in the country, and Rowley warned that groups based in the U.K. were seeking links with extremists abroad.
“There are many Western countries that have extreme right-wing challenges and, in quite a number of those the groups," he said, "we are worried that they are making connections with them and networking."