Yesterday’s beheading of a soldier in south east London was part of an on-going terrorism threat to British soldiers that the Henry Jackson Society first highlighted last year.
A March 2012 publication – Islamist Extremists Targeting Soldiers Living in the West: A Deadly Trend – showed how soldiers living in the West were being consistently targeted by Islamist militants. HJS research fellow and terrorism analyst Robin Simcox predicted in that report that, because such attacks were of an “unsophisticated nature” and “planned by small cells or radicalised individuals, they are … harder to track and, subsequently, stop”.
Dr Alan Mendoza, Executive Director of the Henry Jackson Society, said: “The appalling events of yesterday show how important it is to understand this style of attack in order to stop further incidences and eventually to defeat it. Sadly, the threat to the West from homegrown terrorism is a phenomenon that the Henry Jackson Society has charted, documented, analysed and warned about over the course of many years.”
The Woolwich attack did not require either of the individuals to receive terrorist training abroad or to be members of a proscribed terrorist group. Rather than seeing sophisticated attacks from individuals with direct links to al-Qaeda, the U.S. and Europe are having to be increasingly aware of this new form of terrorism. It reflects a dangerous trend of homegrown, radicalised terrorists seeking to attack the West.
This is not an isolated incident. The first Islamism-inspired attack on British soil was an attempted petrol bomb attack against a territorial army base fifteen years ago in December 1998 by Amer Mirza, a student involved with the proscribed group al-Muhajiroun.
Since then, two further attempts on British soldiers have been foiled by the security services: Abu Bakr Mansha, a British south London resident, was jailed for in six years in 2005 for planning to kill or harm Cpl Mark Byles, a British soldier who had served in Iraq; and Parviz Khan, convicted in 2008 for conspiring to kidnap and behead a British Muslim soldier. Khan planned to film the attack and broadcast the video as a warning to other Muslims against joining the Army. It is thought Khan had received approval for this attack from al-Qaeda.
One of the perpetrators is thought to be Michael ‘Mujaheed’ Adebolaja, a 20 year old British Nigerian convert. HJS analysis of Islamism inspired offenses in the UK showed that 69% were committed by Brits, and 15% of Islamism-related offenses in the UK were committed by converts. Nearly half (46%) of offenders resided in south London, with nearly a quarter (23%) residing in south London. A third of all individuals are aged between 20-24.