Overview: In 2014, the United Kingdom (UK) continued to play a leading role in countering international terrorism. On August 29, the UK raised its terrorist threat level from "substantial" to "severe," indicating a terrorist attack is "highly likely," due to the threat from Western foreign terrorist fighters in Syria and Iraq returning to the UK and potentially targeting the aviation sector. The UK had not raised its threat level to severe since the failed aviation attack in the United States in December 2009. Domestically, the UK government continued to implement its updated counterterrorism strategy, CONTEST, which was released in 2011 and updated in 2013. The threat from radicalized fighters returning to the UK from Syria and Iraq resulted in a significant shift of counterterrorism resources and became the UK's number one counterterrorism priority. However, the UK remained concerned about threats from al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen, Libya, East Africa, as well as from home-grown violent extremists.
Northern Ireland continued to face a terrorist threat from a small minority of violent dissident republican groups who oppose the peace process. Police and prison officers remained their principal targets. Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) senior officials reported that a number of attacks involved weaponry of growing sophistication with tactics similar to those used in Iraq and Afghanistan. Although tactically proficient, the dissidents lacked strategic acumen. The two principal loyalist paramilitary organizations, the Ulster Defense Association (UDA) and the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) continued to exist. Tensions and in-fighting within both the UDA and UVF also persisted and remained a cause for concern.
The UK is an active member of the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). From the start of the U.S.-led air campaign in Iraq, the UK has contributed by providing surveillance and reconnaissance support, conducting airstrikes, and delivering humanitarian assistance and munitions. The UK has eight Tornado aircraft based in Akrotiri for use against ISIL. The UK government made clear that UK troops would not have a combat role on the ground although British trainers have deployed to Iraq to help build Iraqi security force capacity. UK government agencies and NGOs have increased efforts to counter ISIL messaging under the auspices of its Prevent program of community outreach.
2014 Terrorist Incidents: While terrorist groups were active throughout the UK, the majority of attacks occurred in Northern Ireland, with the notable exception of the parcel bombs sent to armed forces recruitment centers in England in February. 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. As of October, the UK's Northern Ireland Office recorded 18 national security attacks in Northern Ireland.
In February, the IRA claimed responsibility for parcel bombs sent to armed forces recruitment centers in England. Four suspected explosive devices were discovered at Army careers offices in Oxford, Brighton, Canterbury, and the Queensmere shopping center in Slough. Packages were sent to Aldershot, Hampshire, and another two armed forces careers offices in Reading, Berkshire; and Chatham, Kent. Downing Street said the small but potentially viable devices "bore the hallmarks of Northern Ireland-related terrorism."
On October 7, dissident republicans threw a 60-centimeter long pipe bomb at a police patrol vehicle. Although the device did not detonate, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) labelled it "advanced" and "sophisticated."
On October 14, dissidents placed a pressure-activated device in the garden of an unoccupied home in Derry/Londonderry. Police arrived at the site after receiving a phone call, after which army experts disarmed a "complex and sophisticated device designed to maim and kill."
On November 2, a horizontal mortar, fired by command wire, hit a police vehicle in Derry/Londonderry and damaged one of the rear doors before it bounced into a garden where it exploded. Police suspect that dissident republicans were responsible for the attack.
On November 16, suspected dissident republicans used a home-made rocket launcher to attack a police Land Rover in North Belfast. It struck the vehicle and caused some damage, but no one was injured.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: UK laws allow the government to investigate and prosecute terrorists using a variety of tools. In July, the UK enacted the Antisocial Behavior Crime and Policing Act 2014, which amended the port and border security powers in Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000. The new code of practice increased the protection of individual freedoms during counterterrorism-related border stops. In November, Parliament began review of the Serious Crime Bill, on track to be enacted in 2015. The bill includes a provision which would make extra-territorial terrorist acts prosecutable in the UK.
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. Using a regional policing model, the Kent Police, UK Border Force, and various counterterrorism units across the UK prioritized Syrian foreign terrorist fighters/returnees as part of their investigative remit. For example, the Kent Police and the UK Border Force played a central role in identifying and disrupting the foreign fighter flow across the UK border crossing at Dover Port.
The relationship between U.S. Department of Justice personnel assigned to the Embassy and the Metropolitan Police Extradition Unit is robust and has led to seamless information sharing and resource allocation. For example, on September 4, the UK ordered Haroon Aswat, a UK-based individual, to be extradited to the United States to face terrorism charges. Aswat faces charges of conspiring to provide and providing material support to al-Qa'ida and for attempting to establish a terrorist training camp in the United States.
UK experts estimate at least 500 Britons joined the conflict in Syria and Iraq and around 27 have allegedly died in those countries. According to the Met, about 50 people per week are referred to de-radicalization programs. Police prevention is at its highest since the aftermath of the July 7, 2005 attack on London's transport system. Police made over 200 terrorism-related arrests in 2014, a significant increase, as a result of conducting high numbers of counterterrorism investigations. Police charged at least 16 people for terrorism-related offenses after returning from Syria and Iraq.
2014 law enforcement actions in Great Britain included:
On February 25, police arrested a former Guantanamo detainee, Moazzam Begg, on suspicion of Syria-related terrorism offences. Begg was one of four arrested in Birmingham in addition to a man aged 36 from Shirley, Solihull; and a 44-year-old woman and her son, aged 20, from Sparkhill, Birmingham.
On September 25, British police arrested nine men in London on suspicion of encouraging terrorism and being members of banned organizations. One of the men identified is Anjem Choudary, one of the most high-profile radical Muslim preachers in Britain. Choudary, 47, was previously the head of Islamist group al-Muhajiroun or Islam4UK, which was banned in 2010. Choudary is well-known for organizing demonstrations against Western military action in the Middle East and for publicly expressing support for the September 11 attacks on the United States and the July 7 bombings in London.
On October 14, 2014, counterterrorism police arrested six people in raids across southern England following other detentions in London and the English Midlands. Two men, ages 23 and 26; and two women, ages 23 and 29; were arrested on charges related to suspected terrorism, while a 57-year-old man and a 48-year-old woman were detained on suspicion of failing to disclose information about terrorism. The 57-year-old man was also held on suspicion of "engaging in conduct in preparation of terrorist acts and arranging availability of money and property for use in terrorism."
On October 22, counterterrorism police arrested a 32-year-old man and a 25-year-old woman in two separate probes linked to violent extremism in Syria. The man was arrested on suspicion of having visited a terrorist training camp.
On November 7, authorities arrested four men for suspected terrorism. Police rounded up the men, ages 19 to 27, from four different southern England locations. Armed police, rarely deployed in the UK, took part in three of the arrests, though no shots were fired. The force's Terrorism Command, working with the regional South East Counter Terrorism Unit and Britain's intelligence agency MI5, made the arrests as "part of an ongoing investigation into Islamist-related terrorism."
On November 26, two British brothers were sent to prison for conspiring to attend a terrorist training camp in Syria, becoming the first Britons jailed after returning from the war-torn country. Hamza and Mohommod Nawaz, from London, were arrested in September 2013 after arriving in England by ferry from France. Police say they were carrying AK-47 ammunition brought home as a trophy as well as photos and videos from their time in Syria. The brothers pleaded guilty, and 23-year-old Hamza Nawaz was sentenced to three years in prison. His 31-year-old brother, described as the instigator of the plan, received four-and-a-half years.
In Northern Ireland, the Crime Operations Department is responsible for conducting terrorism investigations and works closely with MI5 and Gardai (Ireland's police force) on a range of issues. PSNI senior officials reported that cooperation was "better than ever." As a direct result of their efforts, there were major disruptions, arrests, and convictions, as well as seizures of arms and improvised explosive device components that impeded violent dissident republican activity. Between October 1, 2013 and September 30, 2014 police seized 26.1 kilograms of explosives, almost three times the amount seized in the previous year. In an operation between October 8 and October 11, 2014, the PSNI Serious Crime Branch recovered 500kg of fertilizer, packs of homemade explosives, timer units, detonators, fuses, and six pipe bombs from a farmhouse in Kinawley, County Fermanagh.
2014 law enforcement actions in Northern Ireland included:
On November 8, in Derry/Londonderry, Eamon Bradley was charged with two extra territorial offenses: possessing explosives with intent to harm and receiving weapons and explosives training in Syria. In October, Bradley was arrested upon his return from Syria, following media reports that he had been fighting in the civil war there. Bradley spent two months attending a camp run by the Army of Islam group, learning to use various guns, mortars, and explosives.
On November 10, PSNI, with the aid of MI5, raided a house in Newry and arrested 12 men, aged between 36 and 75. Six of the men were charged with directing terrorism and membership of a proscribed organization, conspiracy to possess explosives with intent to endanger life, conspiracy to possess firearms and ammunition with intent to endanger life, and preparation for acts of terrorism. One man was charged with directing terrorism and membership of a proscribed organization. Five other men were released pending a report to the Public Prosecution Service. The operation was part of a wider investigation that began in March into the Continuity IRA. Police reported they were acting on MI5 intelligence that the Continuity IRA's top officials were meeting at the property to plot a major terrorist attack. Among those arrested was Patrick Joseph 'Mooch' Blair, who had previously been accused of building the 1998 Omagh bomb.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: The UK is an active member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), and has observer or cooperating status in five regional FATF bodies: Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism (MONEYVAL); Eastern and Southern Africa 'Anti-Money' Laundering Group; Caribbean Financial Action Task Force; Asia Pacific Group on Money Laundering; and the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force. Amendments to Schedule Four of the Terrorism Act 2000 came into force on December 3, 2014. These amendments were made by the Crime (International Cooperation) Act 2003 and implement the Freezing Order measure in relation to terrorism offences. These amendments require a UK court to consider executing an overseas (EU) asset-freezing request within a prescribed period. Additionally, two important pieces of legislation relating to terror finance – the Protection of Charities Bill and the CTS Bill – progressed through Parliament in 2014. The Charities Bill, which would enable the Charities Commission to more effectively counter terrorist financing in the non-profit sector was undergoing Parliamentary pre-legislative scrutiny at year's end. The CTS Bill includes a provision to prevent kidnap and ransom insurance payments made to terrorists.
The UK prosecutes those involved in the financing of terrorism. Since 2001, 48 individuals have been charged under sections 15-19 of the Terrorism Act 2000 ('fundraising'); of these, 17 individuals were convicted. In the first half of 2014, one individual was convicted on charges of funding terrorism. Additionally, individuals suspected of funding terrorism were convicted of related offenses (fraud, money laundering, etc.), including at least one in 2014. The UK electronically distributes a consolidated list of all UK-designated terrorists and terrorist entities (to include UN targets, EU targets, and UK domestic targets under TAFA) to 15,000 financial institution subscribers, mainly in the UK and its overseas territories.
The UK actively met its obligations to restrict terrorist financing, including funding to extremist groups operating in Syria and Iraq, under UN Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs) 2170 and 2178. In the second half of 2014, the UK placed asset freezes on six ISIL-affiliated individuals: Hassan Nur, Nasser Muthana, Aseel Muthana, Ruhul Amin, Reyaad Khan and Abdul Rahman Benhammedi. The UK Charities Commission also worked to counter terrorist financing. Of the regulator's 85 open compliance cases as of October, 37 are Syria-related investigations.
The UK seizes assets in accordance with UNSCRs 1267, 1988, and 1373. Asset freezes under UN obligations are made as soon as corresponding EU regulations come into force. If aware of assets held in the UK, the government proactively notifies financial institutions to compensate for any delay in legal effect of the UN decision. For domestic asset freezes under UNSCR 1373, action is taken immediately. As of June 2014, the UK held approximately US $275,400 in frozen assets: US $163,600 under the Terrorist Asset-Freezing Act 2010, US $17,800 under the EU terrorist asset freezing regime, and US $94,000 under UNSCRs 1267 and 1988. Her Majesty's Treasury licenses funds to individuals subject to asset freezes for daily living expenses and legal costs; therefore the amount frozen reduces over time.
Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) regulates money transfer and remittance services. HMRC requires remitters to understand to whom they are sending money, and collects originator and recipient information. UK charities have a duty to report suspicious activities under section 19 of the Terrorism Act 2000; it is an offense to fail to report where there is a suspicion of terrorist finance. Such reports are filed directly with the police or with the National Crime Agency, and the Charities Commission (UK regulator) is informed. Charities with an annual income of US $40,500 per year are obliged to file serious incident reports (SIDs) of fraud, theft, or other criminal behavior to include support for proscribed organizations or individuals. Charities with annual income under US $40,500 per year "should" report such incidents, but failure to do so does not result in a criminal offense.
Charities are not a regulated sector for the purposes of SIDs, but a charity can file a SID directly with the UK regulator if it chooses to do so. From April 2013 through March 2014, UK charities filed 32 SIDs with the Charities Commission. Additionally, auditors and accountants of charitable organizations have a statutory whistleblowing requirement to report suspicious activities. From April 2013 through March 2014, auditors and accountants filed 85 such reports, of which only four related to suspected terrorism finance. Lastly, UK financial institutions file Suspicious Activity Reports with the National Crime Agency related to the financial accounts and transactions of UK non-profit organizations, a portion of which may be related to suspicion of terrorist finance.
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-7, the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, and Interpol. In January, the UK supported an UNSCR to counter kidnapping for ransom.
Countering Radicalization to Violence and Violent Extremism: The UK has been following its Prevent strategy to counter radicalization since 2007. The Department of Communities and Local Government are responsible 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 focuses on countering the ideology of violent extremism, including the identification of at-risk youth and their referral to counseling programs. The revised strategy calls for a much more focused effort to target those most at risk of radicalization. Finally, organizations that hold "extremist views," even those that are non-violent, are not eligible to receive government funding or participate in Prevent programs.
The CTS Bill introduced in November includes measures to strengthen existing de-radicalization programs, including Channel, a voluntary counter-radicalization program targeted at people, usually youth, who have been identified as at risk of radicalization. The new bill will mandate all local government authorities to participate in the program. An additional provision obliges named organizations – such as universities, schools, prisons, probation providers, and local government councils – have a "duty to prevent" extremism/radical speakers. The Home Office will provide institutions with guidance, such as requiring universities to create policies to prevent extremist speakers, and prisons to provide evidence they are dealing with violent extremist prisoners.