Parsons Green verdict exposes weaknesses in counter-radicalisation efforts


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The Henry Jackson Society today commented on the conviction of Ahmed Hassan for the Parsons Green Tube bombing in September 2017.

Once again we are reminded that deradicalisation is not an exact science:

• When interviewed by asylum and immigration officials, Ahmed Hassan claimed to have trained with Islamic State, leaving questions unanswered about how this information was dealt with.

• Hassan was in the Channel de-radicalisation programme up to the point at which he began making the bomb. Yet, those working with him judged that he was making good progress and did not pose a threat to the public.

• Hassan used the explosive TATP, which has been used by Islamic State attacks and IS-inspired atrocities in the past – including the Manchester attack last year and incidents in Paris and Brussels. Hassan also purchased parts of his bomb using Amazon.

• The Parsons Green case and the Melbourne attack in June 2017 both involved an individual who had been through deradicalisation programmes and yet, went on to commit acts of violence. These cases will raise concerns about the effectiveness of de-radicalisation programmes being offered as a solution to the growing phenomenon of returning foreign fighters.

• The attack gives cause for concern on the intelligence front. As David Anderson’s report into the 2017 attacks in Britain showed, assailants involved in the Westminster Bridge, Manchester Arena and London Bridge attacks were all known to MI5 as extremists. Yet they were not judged to pose a threat at the time they perpetrated their attacks. Parsons Green appears to follow a similar pattern.

• With the Government’s counter-terrorism strategy, CONTEST, being reworked, Ministers should take note of these continued and persistent attacks on critical national infrastructure. It will be essential to better protect our nation’s transport systems, including training transport officials on Prevent and Protect.

Tom Wilson, Research Fellow in the Centre for the Response to Radicalisation and Terrorism at The Henry Jackson Society, said:

“This verdict is of course welcome, but the Parsons Green attack raises questions which must urgently be answered if we are to ensure that British people are safe from the threat of foreign fighters returning from abroad.

“Ahmed Hassan had been through a deradicalisation programme and yet still went on to commit an act of violence. Deradicalisation is an inexact science but we must constantly be reviewing how reliable current thinking and practices are, so that we succeed in recognising the signs that people are becoming more liable to commit acts of terrorism.

“While our intelligence services have a good record when it comes to identifying extremists, this case shows that there is still more to be done when it comes to spotting which ones pose a direct threat and warrant closer monitoring, or the use of measures such as TPIMs.”


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