Five people, including a 17-year-old boy, have been arrested by police in the U.K. for being part of banned far-right group, National Action, which the British government has classified as a proscribed terrorist organization.
Police arrested the boy on Wednesday. Also taken into custody were three men — 22, 23 and 28 years old respectively — and one 22-year-old woman.
“[All] will be questioned on suspicion of being members of a proscribed organisation contrary to section 11 of the Terrorism Act,” West Midlands police said in a short statement. “A number of properties are being searched in connection with the arrests. The arrests were pre-planned and intelligence-led.”
National Action was first established in 2013 before it was put on the list of banned groups in 2016, and is described as a “virulently racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic” neo-Nazi group. “The group rejects democracy, is hostile to the British state and seeks to divide society,” a Home Office report reads. “[National Action] implicitly endorses violence against ethnic minorities and perceived ‘race traitors’.”
National Action also openly applauded the 2016 murder of Jo Cox, a Member of Parliament who was stabbed and shot to death by far-right extremist Thomas Mair.
Over the last year, there have been a number of raids targeting National Action, indicating British security services perceive the group as a serious threat and revealing its widening reach.
Last September, four serving members of the British Army were arrested for being part of the group. In March, a court heard how one of those soldiers, 33-year-old Mikko Vehvilainen, was stockpiling weapons in preparation for a race-war. Nazi memorabilia and the manifesto of far-right mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik was also found in his home during a police search.
British police have been increasingly wary about the threat posed more broadly by far-right extremists. In February, Mark Rowley, the former assistant commissioner for London’s Metropolitan Police, warned that far-right terrorism was becoming an increasing concern for the security services, and that four plots had been foiled in the last year alone.
“The right-wing terrorist threat is more significant and more challenging than perhaps the public debate gives it credit for,” Rowley said. “A deeply concerning characteristic is how both far-right and also Islamist terrorism are growing, allowing each side to reaffirm their grievances and justify their actions.”
Naturally, the United States and President Trump have been unhelpful to the British state in dealing with this surge of far-right extremism. In July, the Guardian revealed that an American diplomat had lobbied London to release Tommy Robinson, as Islamophobic “activist” who previously founded the English Defense League, a far-right protest group with a penchant for violence. Trump has also retweeted Britain First, a xenophobic far-right party which has been hoping to capitalize on the decline of the some of the more traditional right-wing elements in the U.K.