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Police warn of lone attacks

By JULIAN SHEA in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-10-19 10:27
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A general view of 20 Fenchurch Street in London, Britain, Oct 15, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

Fatal stabbing of UK politician reveals a new threat from 'bedroom radicals'

British security services are warning that the country could face a new threat from so-called 'bedroom radicals', lone individuals who have become radicalized during lockdown, as investigations continue into the killing of Conservative member of Parliament David Amess last Friday.

A 25-year-old man, Ali Harbi Ali, was arrested at the scene of the stabbing, in Leigh-on-Sea in Essex, and investigators are looking to see if he could be one such 'lone wolf' security threat.

Counter-terrorism police are handling the case, and it had initially been thought that Amess may have been targeted because of his political views or opinions.

But the Daily Telegraph reports that there is now a growing feeling that he was picked out purely because he made himself available to the public, at a regular constituency surgery meeting that all MPs carry out, where they have face-to-face meetings with constituents to discuss their concerns.

It is believed the suspect had booked an appointment to see Amess a week earlier.

"Counter-terror police and MI5 have been concerned for some time that once we emerged out of lockdown, there would be more people out on the streets and more targets for the terrorists," a source told the Telegraph. "Combined with the fact that lots of young people have been spending so much time online, it makes for a very worrying mix and there is a real concern about the possible rise of the bedroom radicals."

It has been widely reported that the suspect is the son of a former senior official in the government of Somalia, and Sky News says that the Somali Embassy in Beijing has confirmed that he is the nephew of the country's ambassador to China.

A statement issued by Amess's family said they were "broken "by the death of the 69-year-old father-of-five.

"We ask people to set aside their differences and show kindness and love to all. This is the only way forward. Set aside hatred and work towards togetherness," it said.

"Whatever one's race, religious or political beliefs, be tolerant and try to understand.

"As a family, we are trying to understand why this awful thing has occurred. Nobody should die in that way. Nobody."

Last year, Amess, who had been in Parliament for almost 40 years, published a book called A survivor's guide to Westminster.

Referring to a number of previous violent attacks on MPs, he wrote: "We all make ourselves readily available to our constituents and are often dealing with members of the public who have mental health problems, it could happen to any of us.

"The British tradition has always been that members of parliament regularly make themselves available for constituents to meet them face-to-face at their surgeries.

"Now advice has been given to be more careful when accepting appointments... in short, these increasing attacks have rather spoilt the great British tradition of the people openly meeting their elected politicians."

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said he could understand if some MPs wanted to have police protection at constituency surgeries, but he said that they would not want "a wedge" to be put between them and constituents.

MPs came together at Westminster on Monday to pay tribute to Amess. "This is us standing up for democracy, we believe in freedom and democracy," Speaker of the House Lindsay Hoyle told ITV News. "It's not a show of defiance, it's a show of unity."

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