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Country Reports on Terrorism 2013 - United Kingdom

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 April 2014
Cite as United States Department of State, Country Reports on Terrorism 2013 - United Kingdom, 30 April 2014, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/536229ab8.html [accessed 10 December 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Overview: In 2013, the UK continued to play a leading role in countering international terrorism. The UK government continued to implement its updated counterterrorism strategy, CONTEST, which was released in 2011. This update of CONTEST set out the UK's strategic framework for countering the terrorist threat at home and abroad for 2011-2015. In 2013, the conflict in Syria proved to be a galvanizing force for UK-based Muslim individuals and organizations. The threat of European fighters traveling to Syria and then returning home radicalized to violence and dangerous drew significant attention and resources.

Northern Ireland continued to experience a persistent level of security incidents, including attempted bombings, violent protests, and the placement of hoax explosive devices. Many of the devices were relatively crude but occasionally viable. Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) officials reported an upsurge in dissident republican (Irish nationalist) attacks for 2013, as evidenced by letter bombs, under-car booby traps, blast bombs, and hijackings. While security forces and facilities continued to be the primary targets of violence, a few attempts were aimed at political officials and commercial centers within Belfast's city center.

In October 2012, the British Security Service downgraded the threat to Great Britain from dissident Irish republicans from "substantial" to "moderate." The decrease shows the authorities regard an attack on London and other British cities from such groups as possible, but not likely. Previously it was deemed a strong possibility. The threat level in Northern Ireland has not changed. It remained "severe" with an attack still highly likely. On its website, MI5 said: "The threat level for Northern Ireland-related terrorism is separate from that for international terrorism. It is also set separately for Northern Ireland and Great Britain."

2013 Terrorist Incidents: While terrorist groups were active throughout the UK in 2013, the majority of attacks occurred in Northern Ireland. Dissident republican groups: the Real IRA (RIRA), Continuity IRA (CIRA), and Óglaigh na hÉireann (ONH) remained actively opposed to the peace settlement in Northern Ireland. The UK's Northern Ireland Office recorded 30 national security attacks in Northern Ireland in 2013, "broadly comparable with previous years."

  • On March 3, police intercepted a van containing four live mortar bombs in Londonderry; police suspected the target was a Londonderry police station. The van had its roof cut back to allow the mortars to be fired. It was the first time dissidents attempted this type of mortar attack. Two men were arrested at the scene, the driver of the van and a motorcyclist travelling behind. Both men were charged with having explosives with intent to endanger life, conspiracy to cause an explosion, and possessing a van for terrorist purposes.

  • On May 22, British Army Soldier, Drummer (Private) Lee Rigby was attacked and killed near Woolwich in southeast London. Two men of Nigerian descent were convicted for the murder by stabbing and hacking Rigby to death with knives and a meat cleaver. During the incident and trial the accused stated that they killed a British soldier to avenge the killing of Muslims by British Armed Forces.

  • On October 29, a letter bomb addressed to Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers forced the closure and evacuation of Stormont Castle and nearby Parliamentary buildings. The Royal Mail sorting offices also intercepted devices addressed to Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland Matt Baggott and Chief Inspector John Burrows on October 25, while the Londonderry regional office of the Public Prosecution Service received a device on October 28.

  • On November 8, a former policeman and his daughter escaped harm from a booby-trap placed on his car in Dundonald (near Belfast). The target discovered the device on the under carriage of his vehicle in a routine security check.

  • On November 20, two masked men delivered a bag that contained a viable bomb on board a Translink bus and ordered the driver to take it to the Londonderry police headquarters. The bus driver instead called authorities to render it safe.

  • On November 24, a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device partially detonated near Victoria Square, the largest and busiest shopping mall in Belfast's city center. A driver, carjacked by three masked men in the predominantly Catholic Ardoyne district, was forced to deliver the vehicle laden with 60 kg of explosives to the shopping center's parking garage. He then abandoned the vehicle and notified authorities. The area was evacuated and cordoned off, but the detonator, which failed to trigger the actual device, went off before army experts could examine and render it safe. The vehicle sustained damage, but there were no casualties. On December 18, two men were arrested for questioning.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: UK laws allow the government to investigate and prosecute terrorists using a variety of tools. On April 25, a key piece of security legislation, the Justice and Security Act, was passed into law. The bill closed a significant legal loophole in the UK government's ability to protect classified information; allowed "closed material proceedings" in civil courts, thus enabling the government's use of classified information to defend itself in civil cases; and strengthened parliamentary oversight of the intelligence community.

The UK has a highly capable network of agencies involved in counterterrorism efforts. The Metropolitan (Met) police lead the UK's national counterterrorism law enforcement effort. The Met police work closely with local police, MI5, and other agencies in terrorism investigation, prevention, and prosecution. On October 7, the National Crime Agency (NCA) launched and absorbed its predecessor, the Serious Organized Crime Agency (SOCA). While the NCA is not the lead counterterrorism agency, its organized crime, cybercrime, and border policing remit involved it in some counterterrorism issues.

The UK has issued machine readable passports with an imbedded electronic chip since 2006. UK travel documents and visas contain a number of security features to prevent tampering and fraud. The UK has advanced biometric screening capabilities at some points of entry, but at others there is no screening at all. The UK has no statutory ability to collect advance passenger name records (PNR). It is against EU regulations for the UK to collect PNR information on commercial flights originating from within the EU.

2013 law enforcement actions included:

  • On January 9-10, four men were arrested as part of an investigation into people traveling to Syria in support of alleged terrorist activity. A 33-year-old man was arrested at Gatwick Airport as he attempted to take a flight out of the UK. Three other men, aged 18, 22, and 31, were arrested at separate addresses in east London. The arrests were linked to a July investigation in which two other men were arrested and charged over the kidnapping of British photographer John Cantlie and his Dutch colleague Jeroen Orelemans in Syria.

  • On July 7, Omar Mahmoud Othman, known as Abu Qatada, was extradited to Amman, Jordan, after almost a decade-long saga of efforts to transfer him to Jordan, where he faced terrorism charges that he was convicted of in absentia.

  • Between September 16 and 18, four people were arrested as part of an investigation into suspected terrorism in Syria. A 27-year-old man and a 26-year-old woman were detained on September 18 in Essex, east of London. On September 16, two men, aged 29 and 22, were arrested just after entering the country at the southern English port of Dover, according to officials. The arrests were made in relation to what police called "the commission, preparation, or instigation of acts of terrorism" in Syria.

  • On October 13, four people were arrested at three sites in an operation coordinated between Scotland Yard and the security service MI5. All four of the arrests were made "on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism under the Terrorism Act 2000 (Section 41-1B)."

  • On October 23, Anton Duffy, Martin Hughes, and Stacy McAllister, from Glasgow; Paul Sands from Ayr; and Edward McVeigh from Portpatrick, Dumfries, and Galloway, were arrested in an operation led by Police Scotland and involving the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and the security service. The five suspects appeared in court and were charged with conspiring to commit acts of terrorism.

  • On November 21, a court ruled that there was insufficient evidence to support the charges against Sharon Rafferty and Sean Kelly for directing the activities of a terrorist organization. Rafferty and Kelly were linked to an alleged dissident republican terrorist training camp, a secret firing range uncovered by police in County Tyrone on May 19, 2012.

  • Also on November 21, Marian McGlinchey (aka Marian Price) pled guilty to providing property for the purposes of terrorism. McGlinchey purchased the mobile phone used by the Real IRA to claim responsibility for the attack on the Massereene Army barracks in March 2009, during which two soldiers died and four were injured. The attack marked the first British military fatalities in Northern Ireland since 1997.

  • On December 2, a 19-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of Section 57 of the Terrorism Act after a device believed to be a nail bomb was found at a house in Salford.

  • On December 18, Colin Duffy, Alex McCrory, and Henry Fitzsimmons were arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit murder, possession of firearms and explosives with intent to endanger life or cause serious damage to property, and IRA membership. The charges were linked to events on December 6 and 7, when assailants fired shots at police vehicles patrolling in predominantly Catholic areas of Belfast. Police reported no injuries. The weapons used were military grade and police reported that that the chances of injury to police and innocent bystanders had been significant.

  • Also on December 18, Keith McConnan, 19; and Orla O'Hanlon, 18; of Dundalk in the Republic of Ireland , were arrested by An Garda Siochána, the police service of the Republic of Ireland, and the PSNI at a house just north of the border in south Armagh. PSNI officers discovered a timer power unit, grinders, and fertilizer used for making an explosive mix for a car bomb at the property. The arrests were the result of a cross-border security operation involving surveillance of the house. Armed officers from the Garda later arrested a 43-year-old man at separate premises in Dundalk. The discovery of the bomb-making items was described as a "very significant" find by security sources in the Republic of Ireland.

Countering Terrorist Finance: The UK is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and an active participant in FATF-style regional bodies to meet evolving money laundering and terrorist financing threats, and has a wide range of anti-money laundering and counterterrorist finance laws. The UK has been a leader on pointing out the dangers of paying kidnappers' ransom payments and developing the linkages of ransom payments to increased financial support for terrorist organizations and further kidnappings. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2014 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.

Regional and International Cooperation: The UK is a founding member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum and co-chairs its Countering Violent Extremism Working Group. The UK cooperates with other nations and international organizations on counterterrorism, including the UN and UN Security Council, EU, NATO, Council of Europe, G-8, the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, and Interpol. In 2013, the UK held the G-8 presidency and counterterrorism issues such as kidnapping for ransom and foreign fighters in Syria were included in the agenda.

Countering Radicalization to Violence and Violent Extremism: In 2007, the UK launched its Prevent strategy to counter radicalization. Prevent is part of the government's overall national counterterrorism strategy, CONTEST. In 2011, Prevent was revised to correct several perceived problems. There had been complaints from members of Muslim organizations that UK government interaction with their communities was focused solely on security concerns. As a result, the UK divided the responsibilities for various strands of Prevent among different government organizations. The Department of Communities and Local Government took over responsibility for "integration" work, designed to ensure that Muslim communities received all the government services to which they were entitled and that immigrants were given assistance to integrate into British society. The Home Office focused on countering the ideology of violent extremism, including the identification of at-risk youth and their referral to counseling programs. The revised strategy called for a much more focused effort to target those most at risk of radicalization. Finally, the government decided that organizations that hold "extremist views," even those that are non-violent, will not be eligible to receive government funding or participate in Prevent programs.

Following the May murder of soldier Lee Rigby, the UK government launched a taskforce to determine whether the government was doing all it could to confront violent extremism and radicalization to violence. The task force suggested further actions that could be taken to disrupt violent extremists, promote integration, and prevent radicalization, particularly in schools and prisons.

Under the Northern Ireland constitutional settlement, the UK government is responsible for Northern Ireland's national security and is covered by CONTEST. Following the devolution of policing and justice matters in April 2010, the Northern Ireland Minister of Justice is responsible for policing and criminal justice policy matters.

As a society emerging from conflict, Northern Ireland contains many divisions and grievances, and is home to a significant number of ex-prisoners. At the grassroots level, much of the countering violent extremism work in Northern Ireland is implemented by local community organizations. The majority of youth organizations, community safety projects, restorative justice programs, and neighborhood renewal programs have partnership working arrangements with PSNI; some of these programs are directed and staffed by former combatants. Many NGOs, including some that work on a cross-border/all-Ireland basis, are engaged in efforts to prevent young people from becoming involved in "ordinary" crime, gang membership, and sectarianism. One such program, PEACE III (2007-2013), is a distinctive EU structural funds program with an emphasis on youth and unemployment, reinforcing progress toward a peaceful and stable society, and promoting reconciliation. The program has a total budget of approximately US $500 million, and covers Northern Ireland and the border region of Ireland.

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