Far-right extremism is on the rise in Yorkshire, counter-terror chief warns

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The terrorist threat from far-right extremism is on the rise both in Yorkshire and across the country, the head of the region’s counter-terror unit has said.

Detective Chief Superintendent Martin Snowden, who heads up counter-terrorist policing across Yorkshire and the North-East, said the region was seeing a growing threat from the far-right.

But he said this was to “no greater or lesser degree than across the UK” as a whole.

Read more: Yorkshire’s counter-terror chief warns ‘unprecedented’ threat of deadly attacks continues

Thomas Mair, who murdered Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox in her West Yorkshire constituency in 2016, shouted “Britain first” as he attacked and was found to have had links to a US-based neo-Nazi organisation.

Last year Cardiff man Darren Osborne was jailed for life after driving a van into a crowd of Muslim worshippers near London’s Finsbury Park Mosque, killing one person and injuring nine others.

Four further far-right terror plots were foiled by security services across the country last year, as well as 10 Islamist plots, Det Chf Supt Snowden said.

He said while the majority of the North-East Counter Terrorist Unit’s work centred around combating Islamist extremism inspired by the so-called Islamic State, also known as Daesh, the amount of time it was spending investigating extreme right-wing activity was on the rise.

He added: “The greatest threat we see and face at this moment in time is definitely Daesh-inspired but there definitely is an emerging and increasing threat from the far right and extreme right-wing factions.

“Counter-terrorism policing has always investigated extreme right-wing activity but I would say it is on the increase.”

Read more: Bedrooms now training grounds, says Yorkshire counter-terror chief

In 2016, the Government proscribed neo-Nazi organisation National Action as a terrorist group.

The banning of the group had resulted in increased workloads for the North-East Counter Terrorism Unit, Det Chf Supt Snowden said.

But he said it also made it “far easier” for far-right extremists to be prosecuted and had been a step he welcomed.

Dr Afshin Shahi, a senior lecturer at the University of Bradford’s peace studies department, spoke of his alarm at the rising threat from the far-right.

He said: “It is definitely extremely concerning because it doesn’t matter what brand of terrorism it is, terrorism is terrorism. The aim of terrorism is to undermine social order and social cohesion.

“More importantly, it is to create fear – and the politics of fear can be destructive in every sense of the term.”