Islamic State May Want Northern Ireland As A Base Of Operations For U.K. Attack

Ryan Healy | Center for Security Policy United Kingdom (U.K.) security forces are concerned that Northern Ireland could become a ‘back door’ for Islamic State (IS) terror attacks directed at the U.K. Northern Ireland’s long history of conflict with the Republic of Ireland (Southern Ireland) towards British rule and long war with the Irish Republic Army (IRA) may give IS not just a logistical base but also a support system to strike at the U.K. U.K. authorities note that Northern Ireland is not obligated to the British Prevent Anti-Terror Strategy, which is designed to prevent violent extremism. British officials are also concerned that IS members could easily slip across the border into the U.K. which is not closely monitored. Last month, a whistle blower within the U.K. Home Office claimed that the country’s Border Forces lacked the power to deter or detain potential terrorists from entering the U.K. There were also reports that the agency was hit hard by budget cuts and lacked additional training and resources. A parliamentary report from earlier in 2016 showed that individuals arriving to the U.K. from Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland would be exempted from checks by Border Security computers. Unsurprisingly, Northern Ireland’s police force is more oriented towards dealing with the historical domestic terrorism the region faced as opposed to jihadists. Social unrest and violence plagued Northern Ireland from 1968-1998 as the pro-British Royal Ulster Constalbury (RUC) and British Army clashed with Irish loyalists known as the Irish Republic Army (IRA). As late as 2012 a report by the Belfast Telegraph indicated that the Police Services of Northern Ireland (PSNI) faced “No-Go Zones” including the Short Strand section of Belfast, where Irish Nationalist sentiment predominated. The PSNI denied being unable to enter the area. The Irish Times reported, The Gardai or Guard of the Police Force of Ireland, which serve the Republic of Ireland admitted their first line response teams lacks training and experience in responding appropriately to a terrorist attack. David McNarry, the leader of United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), expressed concern earlier in the year that IS members could work with IRA loyalists or former members. The Islamic State publication Black Flags over Rome discusses operations in Europe, including the possibility of forging cooperation with “left wing” activists. While Black Flags does reference the history of Britain’s campaign against the IRA, it does not explicitly call for allying with the group. Ireland has been noted as home to jihadist sentiments, and the Gardai has said the threat of Islamic terrorism surpasses the domestic “Republican” threat. Ireland has been home to some of the most important European Islamist networks, including the Muslim Brotherhood-linked European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR) founded by Hamas supporter Yusuf Al Qaradawi in 1997. Qaradawi has long endorsed terrorism attacks against Israel and against Americans in Iraq in 2004. The ECFR affiliated Islamic Cultural Center of Ireland (ICCI)’s imam Ali Selim has praised “martyrdom” for those who fight jihad. ICCI members have reportedly cheered for the kidnapping of an Irish aid worker and publicly mourned the death of Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Zarqawi successors would eventually separate from Al Qaeda in order to establish Islamic State, and Zarqawi remains a popular figure among IS supporters. Ireland’s tolerance of Islamist networks is bearing poisonous fruit, and Ireland has already contributes seven times as many jihadist foreign fighters, per capita, as the United States. While obviously the history of conflict between Irish Republicans and Loyalists colors the experience of Irish counterterrorism, authorities shouldn’t allow historical examples with domestic terrorism to shade their view of dealing with the wider jihadist threat. SOURCE: CENTER FOR SECURITY POLICY  ]]>