Middle-class children are being lured into far-right terrorism with online content based on violent video games designed to indoctrinate them, Britain’s top counter-terrorism official has said.
Assistant Commissioner Matt Jukes said 19 of the 20 children under the age of 18 who were arrested last year for terrorism offenses were linked to far-right ideology.
According to Jukes, the Met Police’s counter-terrorism chief, those who fall for right-wing hate and then break terrorism laws are younger than those who fall for Islamist hate.
He said: “One thing we see is that young people don’t understand that searching for and then sharing some of the material they come across is a terrorist offence… [and] will lead them to serious consequences.
Most counter-terrorism activity in the UK continues to tackle the threat of Islamist-inspired violence, but the far right continues to grow.
Jukes said 41% of terrorism arrests in 2021 involved far-right suspects, and three out of four advanced plots disrupted by police involved right-wing extremists.
He was speaking on the fifth anniversary of a series of terror attacks in 2017, one of which was far-right while the others were Islamist. Counter-terrorism police and MI5 security services are bracing for possible criticism after the Manchester Arena bombing investigation, which is expected to release findings this year after hearing evidence of alleged failings .
Jukes said the makeup of those drawn to the far right came from families with a stake in society: “In fact, they are in some cases relatively well educated. If you imagined that all of this was necessarily aligned with disenfranchised, poorer, disengaged white communities, in fact, the evidence is that it’s a much more complex picture than that, and we see people whose backgrounds could be relatively middle class, relatively well educated. ”
Where once terrorist cells and grand conspiracies were the threat, it is now more likely that young people are being hijacked by online propaganda in their bedrooms. The far right was big on this and exploiting an interest in the game, Juke said.
“Some of the videos produced by far-right groups pick up on the tropes of presenting first-person shooters,” he added. “They present something that is potentially very appealing to a vulnerable youngster, a young boy who spends a lot of time playing.”
He said: “There is a picture here of young people spending a lot of time chatting and sharing material online. We are absolutely seeing some of that shift to carrying out terrorist attacks. »
Right-wing hate material targeted Jews, Muslims and women and spread conspiracies and lies of a plot to replace white men, Jukes said
The youngest suspect arrested was 13 and a 15-year-old boy was charged last week with terrorist material linked to bomb-making, which was allegedly shared online.
Amid confusing messages from the government about Britons going to fight in Ukraine, Jukes issued a warning. Privately, some counter-terrorism officials think there is not much they can do, especially since the British government supports the Ukrainian government.
Jukes said: “People would face a range of risks, including legal ones, and so we would absolutely encourage people [to find] other ways to support the Ukrainian people. We will need to consider any travel on a case-by-case basis.