Police investigating Sir David Amess’ murder fear suspected lone-wolf terrorists could become radicalised online in the wake of Covid lockdowns, an ex-government terror adviser has said
Police investigating the murder of Tory MP David Amess fear an epidemic of “bedroom radicals” in the wake of Covid lockdowns.
Suspected lone-wolf terrorist Ali Harbi Ali is thought to have become radicalised online recently.
Col Richard Kemp, a former government adviser on terrorism, said: “It has long been felt within the counter-terror community that the threat from so-called bedroom radicals would escalate because of… lockdowns.
“It is possible the isolation has made them more introspective and angry – worse, they have been vulnerable to internet radicalisation. And it is possible that this has contributed to this killer’s state of mind.”
Commander Richard Smith, head of the Met’s Counter-Terrorism Command, warned in July that the risk of radicalisation had increased for a small number of vulnerable people.
He added that young people may have spent more time online due to Covid, dwelling on their grievances.
British-born Ali is understood to have been referred to the Government’s counter-extremism Prevent programme. Police are probing whether he may have been inspired by al-Shabaab, an offshoot of al-Qaeda in Somalia and Kenya.
Ali’s Somalian father Harbi Ali Kullane, 61, a former communications advisor to the Prime Minister of Somalia, confirmed his son was in police custody. Speaking at his sister’s home in North London, Mr Kullane said that counter-terrorism police from Scotland Yard had visited him.
He added: ‘I’m feeling very traumatised. It’s not something that I expected or ever dreamt of.” Father-of-five Sir David was said to have been stabbed 17 times at his constituency surgery at a church hall in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex.
Conservative councillor Dan Nelson said the attacker waited for 40 minutes before striking. He denied claims he had booked an appointment.
An emergency worker said of the scene: “We knew immediately that David was dead. There was no way anyone was surviving that.
“The attacker was already in handcuffs and was sitting on the floor. He was completely dead behind the eyes.”
Ali is believed to have travelled 50 miles by train to carry out the attack.
Anti-terrorism officers and forensic specialists spent much of yesterday searching the address in Kentish Town, North London, where Ali is thought to have been living.
Neighbours said the young man shared the two-storey flat inside a spacious three-floor townhouse with his aunt and other relatives.
Officers searched the family home he grew up in on a quiet street in Croydon, South London, on Friday.
A local there said: “They are a very nice family. The father has not been well recently after having surgery, which meant he had to isolate.”
A neighbour added: “He worked for the health service – he told me so – but in what capacity I don’t know.
“They are a lovely family, it’s such a shock.”
Ali’s parents are thought to have moved to England in the 1990s following the outbreak of civil war in Somalia.
Sir David, an MP since 1983, met the public every fortnight.
His Catholic faith has been suggested as a potential motive.
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On Saturday Prime Minister Boris Johnson laid flowers at the scene of the stabbing, along with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, Home Secretary Priti Patel and Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle. The horrific attack, six years after the murder of MP Jo Cox, ignited fresh concerns over the protection of parliamentarians.
The Pope yesterday condemned recent deadly attacks around the world, including the one on Sir David.
Police and the security services say they have foiled 29 “well-developed” terrorist plots since 2017.
The terror threat for the UK has been “substantial” since February.