London: Four serving British soldiers were arrested today on suspicion of preparing acts of terror as members of a banned far-right group, the defence ministry said.
The men in their twenties and early thirties are believed to be part of the neo-Nazi group called National Action and are being questioned by West Midlands Police.
“We can confirm that a number of serving members of the Army have been arrested under the Terrorism Act for being associated with a proscribed far-right group,” the defence ministry said in a statement.
“These arrests are the consequence of a Home Office Police Force led operation supported by the Army. This is now the subject of a civilian police investigation and it would be inappropriate to comment further,” the statement added.
A 22-year-old from Birmingham, a 32-year-old from Powys, a 24-year-old from Ipswich and a 24-year-old from Northampton are among those arrested.
“They have been arrested on suspicion of being concerned in the commission, preparation and instigation of acts of terrorism under Section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000; namely on suspicion of being a member of a proscribed organisation (National Action) contrary to Section 11 of the Terrorism Act,” a West Midlands Police spokesperson said.
“The arrests were pre-planned and intelligence-led; there was no threat to the public s safety,” the spokesperson added.
The arrests were carried out by police in conjunction with counter-terror units from the West Midlands, Wales and the East Midlands.
Several properties are being searched in connection with the arrests.
The police have not given further details of the men’s activities but the “commission, preparation and instigation” of terrorism could include directly planning an attack, joining a prohibited group or giving effect to that intention.
National Action, a British far-right group, was banned last year by UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd.
“National Action is a racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic organisation which stirs up hatred, glorifies violence and promotes a vile ideology, and I will not stand for it. It has absolutely no place in a Britain that works for everyone,” the minister had said at the time.
An entry for National Action in the UK’s official list of proscribed organisation says it is a “racist neo-Nazi group” that was established in 2013 and has branches across the UK which “conduct provocative street demonstrations and stunts aimed at intimidating local communities”.
Its activities and propaganda materials are particularly aimed at recruiting young people, it notes.
Being a member of, or inviting support for, a proscribed organisation is a criminal offence carrying a sentence of up to 10 years in prison under UK law.
National Action describes itself as a “National Socialist youth organisation” and says its movement is aimed at the “broken right-wing”.
It has used social media to call for a “white jihad” and “crusade” in Britain. PTI