Britain is facing a growing far-right terror threat, campaigners have warned, fuelled by the spread of hate messages by online extremists.
Hope not Hate, in its annual report, has said online extremism is on the rise, claiming that supporters of the outlawed National Action group are subverting government bans by operating under a new front.
There were 28 arrests made last year for far-right inspired terrorist or similarly violent offences, the campaign group said, warning of further violence to come in coming months.
“We are facing a surging threat from far-right terrorism and violent extremism,” said Nick Lowles, campaign group chief executive.
“No-one should be surprised by this upsurge – we have long warned the authorities about the problem of far-right terrorism and violence.
“Combined with burgeoning online hatred, directed particularly towards Muslims, we fear further violence from the extreme right in the months to come.”
It comes just days after the UK’s most-senior anti-terror police officer revealed four extreme right-wing anti-terror plots were been foiled in 2017.
The threat, national counter-terrorism police chief Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley had said on Monday as he called for internet firms to do more, was “significant”.
There have been a number of reports of far-right threats over recent months, with Labour MSP Anas Sarwar revealing a fortnight ago he was sent threatening emails after speaking out about his experience of racism and Islamophobia.
And in early February, a homophobic neo-Nazi terrorist from Cumbria was found guilty at a court in Leeds of plotting a machete attack on a pub’s gay pride night.
It follows the murder of Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox who was killed in 2016 by far-right extremist Thomas Mair who is said to have shouted “Britain first” as he attacked the mother of two outside her constituency surgery.
Mair was described by prosecutors as a man “motivated by hate” with his crimes “nothing less than acts of terrorism”.
Yesterday, MI5 downgraded the official threat level for Northern Ireland-related terrorism in Britain from substantial to moderate, which means security officials assess an attack as “possible but not likely”.
The threat level to the UK from international terrorism remains at severe, meaning that an attack is highly likely.
Now, the State of Hate report for 2018, published today, claims that while traditional far-right organisations have their lowest membership rate for 20 years, there is growing extreme right-wing hatred online, highlighting the case of Finsbury Park Mosque terror attacker Darren Osborne, 48.
He was jailed for at least 43 years after ploughing a hire van into a group of Muslims after becoming radicalised by far-right material within just a few weeks, his trial heard.
The anti-fascist organisation is calling for more to be done to crack down on the “peddlers of hate” spreading their message on social media.
“We must be prepared for more terrorist plots and use of extreme violence from the far right for the foreseeable future,” said Mr Lowles.