Muslim prisoners recruited in jail – new threat to UK

A leading British think tank claims the UK is vulnerable to terrorism as more Muslim prisoners are recruited by militants.

The Royal United Services Institute says hundreds of potentially dangerous radicals will be released in the next few years, posing a big threat to national security, and authorities will have no way of identifying them.

Five years on from the 7/7 London bombings, the threat of terrorism in the UK is very much alive.

Back in 2005, four British-born Muslims, motivated by the UK’s involvement in the Iraq war, blew themselves up in coordinated attacks, killing 52 people.

Now a security think tank study reveals the threat of a new generation of homegrown terrorists.

“There are about 8,000 Muslims in jail in Great Britain, out of a population of 93,000, and the evidence we’ve seen, which is based on conversations with Muslim inmates, is that about 1 in 10 have been targeted in the last 3 or 4 years for radicalization,” said Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary from the National Association of Probation Officers.

If those attempts at radicalization are successful, 800 potential attackers could be released within the next 10 years – and they won’t have previous terror-related convictions.

That’s even more dangerous when you take into account the shifting nature of the terrorist threat.

Instead of large scale coordinated attacks, experts fear more terrorist attacks by so called “lone wolves” – committed to violent jihad, poorly trained and unaffiliated with any terrorist organization – and so impossible to detect.

“Now we see the evolution of the threat, ideologically driven,” said Valentina Soria, a report co-author from the Royal United Service Institute. “Panic and psychosis.”

It’s a trend that, according to the institute, is already apparent in the US.

Pakistani American Faisal Shahzad’s recent attempt to bomb Times Square showed the emergence of untrained but highly radicalized attackers.

The Ministry of Justice is anxious to point out that holding radical views doesn’t necessarily lead to criminal behavior, and says it’s closely monitoring prisoners of concern.

“All our high security prisons operate enhanced monitoring and intelligence-gathering on those convicted or suspected of involvement in terrorism or extremism, and staff are trained to recognize and deal with behaviors which are of concern,” state the ministry’s report.

But the anti-extremist group Minhaj-ul-Quran says more must be done in terms of education within the community.

“That has to be dealt with through long term education and clarification of the misconceptions these people have,” said Shahid Mursaleen, a spokesperson for Minhaj-ul-Quran. “The government needs to employ chaplains who are moderate, in order to tackle these issues inside the prisons before they come out. It will be already too late by the time they come out.”

It is impossible to tell who has been radicalized in jail. But what is known is that by April of next year, 100 convicted terrorists will have been released from high-security prisons into lower-security facilities.

With a move toward a more “scattergun” approach to terrorism, the reasoning is that eventually, one of these lone wolves will manage to take out a high-profile target. And in an open society, experts say there’s only so much government can do to protect the public.