LONDON: British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has warned that teenagers are being recruited to Islamist terror groups in “worrying” numbers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Raab told parliament that Daesh was “weakened,” but its propaganda still needed to be confronted “head on.”
The minister said the lockdown has presented a “perfect storm” for terrorist groups, as the volume of their online content jumped by 7 percent, with young people especially vulnerable to indoctrination.
“This is a critical moment. Yes, Daesh’s brand has weakened — it remains, nonetheless, globally recognized,” he said.
Philip Ingram, a former senior British military intelligence officer, told Arab News: “Lockdown has made it easier for terror groups to influence young people in greater numbers as they are spending more time online and away from the supervised networks you would find in schools and colleges.
“Given increased isolation, it has presented more opportunities for terror recruiters to groom individuals and provide them access to terror training. Much of the online Daesh and Al-Qaeda material is very sophisticated.”
Raab said UK counter-terror specialists had noted “a worrying rise in the proportion of children and teenagers that are now being arrested for terrorism offenses.”
The minister added that lockdown was a popular time for terrorist recruitment because they had “digital access to those who are probably the most susceptible to extremist narratives.
“So we are tackling Daesh’s propaganda head on and I am proud the Foreign Office leads on this work on behalf of the global coalition.”
Raab warned that Daesh still has the capability to carry out violent attacks, describing the group as Britain’s most serious threat “at home and abroad.”
Ingram said: “Recruiting and grooming are not just linked to Islamist groups but extreme right-wing groups will be exploiting opportunities in the same way.
“The security and intelligence authorities have a much better insight of those interacting on Islamist sites than they do of extreme right-wing sites.”
He added: “As the country starts to come out of lockdown, the potential for terror attacks from both groups on crowded places will in my view increase and it is critical that the public remains vigilant to the possibility.”
Exposed: UK Daesh cell fundraising for jailed jihadi bridesBrother of UK Daesh victim asks to testify at ‘Beatles’ trial