Four soldiers in the British Army have been arrested by police in the UK on suspicion of being part of the banned neo-Nazi group National Action, whose members openly applauded the murder of Member of Parliament Jo Cox.
The servicemen were arrested by counter-terror officers in the West Midlands on Tuesday “on suspicion of being a member of a proscribed organization contrary to section 11 of the Terrorism Act”. They are currently being held at a police station.
“We can confirm that a number of serving members of the Army have been arrested under the Terrorism Act for allegedly being associated with a proscribed far right group,” a Ministry of Defense spokesman said. “These are the consequence of a West Midlands Police Force led operation supported by the Army.”
According to the BBC the men are believed to have been part of the Royal Anglian Regiment, who served in Afghanistan and Iraq alongside US forces.
The soldiers are alleged to have belonged to National Action, which in 2016 became the first far right group to be put on the British government’s list of proscribed organizations.
“The group is virulently racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic,” the report read. “Its ideology promotes the idea that Britain will inevitably see a violent ‘race war’, which the group claims it will be an active part of. The group rejects democracy, is hostile to the British state and seeks to divide society by implicitly endorsing violence against ethnic minorities and perceived ‘race traitors’.”
When mother-of-two Jo Cox MP was assassinated by far-right terrorist Thomas Mair in June 2016, National Action posted online, “Only 649 MPs to go” and “Jo Cox would have filled Yorkshire with more subhumans!”. The group also celebrated after the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting and have posted a picture “depicting a police officer’s throat being slit.”
The death of activist Heather Heyer in Charlottesville at the hands of a neo-Nazi shone a spotlight on far-right extremism in the US, but the arrests in Britain show that the problem is pervasive in Europe as well.
Earlier in May, German military police revealed that they were investigating 275 cases of far-right extremism within the German army. Nearly 70 per cent of the cases were said to have emerged since the beginning of 2016.
“In the past, individual cases were always examined, but it wasn’t seen or understood that these cases are not isolated, but there are networks and connections,” member of Parliament Christine Buchholz told the New York Times. “Now it is glaringly obvious to everyone that this problem has existed for a long time and poses and immediate threat to people.”
In Greece the neo-Nazi political party Golden Dawn continues to be a serious political force, despite most of its leaders being jailed. In Sunday’s balloting the group received nearly 6.9 per cent of the vote, giving it 18 seats in the Greek Parliament. It has been repeatedly accused of attacks on immigrants and praised Charlottesville as a “dynamic demonstration against illegal immigration.”
In the UK there has been a significant rise in right-wing extremism. In June one person died and eleven others were injured when a man drove a van into a crowd of worshipers leaving a mosque in north London. The driver shouted, “I want to kill all Muslims” before being wrestled to the ground. There has been a 30 percent rise in the number of far right extremists being referred to the British Government’s anti-program, Channel.
Dr Paul Jackson, an expert on far-right terrorism, told the Independent that the variety of neo-Nazi groups has created a haven for lone extremists who can “sometimes be really sophisticated and very engaged in violent political acts.”