On a day the chief of British intelligence service MI5 warned of ‘most serious’ terror threats facing Britain, the David Cameron government surprised many by naming universities that were allegedly allowing extremist speakers space and time on their campuses.
In the first live interview by an MI5 chief on BBC, Andrew Parker said the terror threat was ‘severe’, and revealed that six plots had been disrupted in the last year – the highest he had seen in his 32 years at the service.
Focussing more on how technology enabled terror networks to thrive, Parker said: “Today we are being stretched by a growing threat from terrorism, and from Syria in particular, combined with the constant challenge of technological change”.
“The way we work these days has changed as technology has advanced. Our success depends on us and our partner agencies having sufficient up-to-date capabilities, used within a clear framework of law against those who threaten this country.”
From 21 September, for the first time, universities and colleges in the UK will be legally required to put in place specific policies to stop extremists radicalising students on campuses, tackle gender segregation at events and support students at risk of radicalisation.
As part of the government’s plans to counter extremism, official sources identified some universities, some individuals who were allowed to speak on campuses, and students who were allegedly radicalised during their courses at universities.
Addressing the Extremism Taskforce, Cameron said: “All public institutions have a role to play in rooting out and challenging extremism”.
The institutions identified in this context were Queen Mary, King’s College, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and Kingston University. A large number of Indian students have studied at SOAS over the years.
The sources said that 70 such events included the hosting of six speakers that were allegedly on record as expressing views contrary to British values, including Haitham Al-Haddad, Dr Uthman Lateef, Alomgir Ali, Imran Ibn Mansur (aka ‘Dawah Man’), Hamza Tzortis and Salman Butt.
Meanwhile, defence secretary Michael Fallon revealed in a parliamentary answer that nearly 330 fighters from the Islamic State group were estimated to have been killed as a result of air strikes by the Royal Air Force between September 2014 and August this year.