Radicalisation of ‘lone wolf’ terrorists has been fuelled by lockdown, says minister

Nov 16, 2021 News

Radicalisation of ‘lone wolf’ terrorists has been fuelled by lockdown, says minister

Radicalisation of "lone wolf" terrorists has been fuelled by coronavirus lockdowns, the Security Minister has said.

Damian Hinds told Sky News it was right to be concerned about so-called "lone wolf" figures who had been radicalised during the pandemic.

Mr Hinds told Sky News: "During the lockdown periods there have been more people spending more time in front of computer screens and we know that when that happens for a very small minority there can be radicalisation with very bad consequences."

This comes after a lone terrorist detonated a homemade bomb outside Liverpool Women’s Hospital on Sunday, leaving a passenger dead and the driver injured.

The Remembrance Sunday terrorist was named on Monday as 32-year-old Emad al-Swealmeen, who came to the UK from Iraq as an asylum seeker.

Security sources working on the investigation said the motive for the attack remained unclear.

The Home Office minister told Sky News that the pandemic had "changed modus operandi" when it comes to self-radicalisation on the internet as it "will have exacerbated and increased" the amount of time people spend online. 

He said: "We use the term lone wolf a lot, sometimes… it can be a little misleading because it gives a certain picture of an individual, but it certainly is true that we’ve seen a move over time, a shift from these what we call directed attacks, part of a bigger organisation where people are following instructions, sometimes quite complex in their organisation, and move from that to more self-directed, some self-radicalised individuals or small groups, rarely totally, totally alone."

Police discovering ‘more by the hour’ about Liverpool attack

Mr Hinds added that counterterrorism police were discovering "more by the hour" about the Liverpool attack but that it could be weeks before the full picture of what happened had formed.

"This has been an absolutely terrible event, very upsetting and unsettling for many.

"I know the police in Merseyside have been putting on extra reassurance and visibility on the streets and as I say our thoughts are very much with the people of the city," he said.

Mr Hinds was also asked whether it was right to lower the terrorism alert level in February.

He said: "Whether we talk about substantial or severe, the threat level has been high for a long time now. As long as that is the case, there is of course the risk that a terrible event and atrocities such as this can happen.

"It’s necessary to be alert throughout. I think it’s right that the level has now been raised and these things are kept under constant review."

The terror threat level was raised to severe on Monday.

‘We can never eradicate terrorism’

The UK’s former counter-terrorism national co-ordinator has said that terrorism can "never" be eradicated due to the "low-level of sophistication" that is requited to be a terrorist.

Nick Aldworth told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: "We can never eradicate terrorism.

"The call from the so-called Islamic State in 2014 for its followers to pick up a rock and effectively use anything to commit acts of violence means that the low-level of sophistication that’s required to be a terrorist these days is such that you just will never stop it."

He added that vulnerability, in particular social isolation, is a "common theme" for those who become radicalised. 

"The groomers out there that try to find people to commit awful acts do look for vulnerable people," he said.