United Kingdom (Northern Ireland)

Overview:  The UK remained a key U.S. partner in the global fight against terrorism, and counterterrorism cooperation between the two countries was excellent.  As a Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS partner, the UK continued to contribute to Iraq and northeastern Syria stabilization efforts and expanded coordination on ISIS in the Sahel and Afghanistan.  The UK also serves as the coalition’s Communications Working Group co-leader, in partnership with the United Arab Emirates and the United States on countering ISIS propaganda and messaging.

The UK’s terrorism threat level was at the third-highest rating (“substantial”) for most of 2022.  On February 9 the UK lowered its threat level from “severe” to “substantial,” indicating a terrorist attack remained “likely” rather than “highly likely.”  The UK’s Joint Terrorism Analysis Center assessed that the nature and scale of the UK terrorist threat was consistent with the level of threat seen before the two attacks in October and November 2021.  UK officials categorized Islamist terrorism as the greatest threat to national security, though they recognized the growing threat of REMVE, also referred to as “extreme right-wing” terrorism.

The Home Office reported that, during the fiscal year ending in March, the UK’s Prevent Counterterrorism program received 6,406 referrals, an increase of 30 percent compared with the year ending in March 2021 (4,915), attributing it to the impact of lifting COVID-19 restrictions.  The Home Office reported more referrals related to “extreme right-wing” radicalization (1,309) than “Islamist” radicalization (1,027) for the second year running.  From 2017 through November 2022, police and security services disrupted 37 late-stage attack plots.

The terrorist threat level for Northern Ireland — set separately from England, Scotland, and Wales — was lowered from severe to substantial in March.  The main terrorist threat in Northern Ireland remained dissident Republican groups, who oppose British governance and use paramilitary-style attacks and intimidation to exert control over communities.  Loyalist paramilitary groups also posed a threat in the region.  In December the Independent Reporting Commission published its fifth annual report assessing Loyalist and Republican paramilitarism, which remain clear and present dangers in Northern Ireland.

2022 Terrorist Attacks:  The UK suffered one terrorist attack in 2022:

  • On October 30 a British national threw numerous crude incendiary devices directed toward an immigration center in Dover before killing himself, resulting in minor injuries for two persons.  CT Policing UK noted that, while there were strong indications that mental health was a likely factor, the suspect’s actions were driven primarily by “extreme right-wing” ideology.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security:  In April, Parliament passed the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which gives the police three new powers to manage the risk posed by terrorist offenders and terrorist risk offenders released from prison who are on probation.  The bill permits the police to apply to a court for a warrant to search the premises of individuals on probation and makes it possible to conduct personal searches, and urgent arrests in rare circumstances, provided they pose a high risk.  Parliament also passed the Nationality and Borders Bill, which enables the Home Secretary to remove an individual’s British citizenship in the interest of national security in cases involving acts of terrorism, or unacceptable behavior, such as the glorification of terrorism.

UK law enforcement made 190 arrests for suspected terrorism-related activity, of which 47 resulted in charges for terrorism-related offenses, according to Home Office statistics in the year ending September.  Of the 49 people convicted of terrorism-related offenses, 34 received sentences of less than 10 years and two received a life sentence.  As of September, 239 people were in custody for terrorism-related offenses in the UK, with 155 of these individuals associated with “Islamist extremism” and 66 with “extreme right-wing” terrorism, and 18 as “other.”

Countering the Financing of Terrorism:  The UK is a member of FATF and has observer or cooperating status in the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering, the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group, the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force, and the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force.  The UK FIU is a member of the Egmont Group.  There were no significant changes in 2022.

For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2022 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.

Countering Violent Extremism:  The Commission for Countering Extremism (CCE), a nonstatutory expert committee of the Home Office, hosted its inaugural CCE conference in February, bringing together government policy officials, academics, and public sector practitioners to consider how extremism manifests itself in the UK and how the sector should respond.  In December the CCE hosted its second conference, with panel discussions focused on radical environmentalism, Barelvi extremism, how grievances are exploited by extremists, and the personal costs of countering extremism.  The UK is a contributor to the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund.  Birmingham, Derry/Londonderry, Leicester, London, Luton, and Manchester are members of the Strong Cities Network.

International and Regional Cooperation:  The UK continued to strongly support CT and counter-unmanned aircraft system threat efforts in the Global Counterterrorism Forum and other regional and multilateral organizations.  The UK also hosted a Communications Working Group meeting for the Defeat-ISIS Coalition in March.  The United Kingdom also remains a firm supporter of the UN Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and international efforts to bring to justice the perpetrators of ISIS violence.  The UK and the United States remain in close coordination on sanctions targets.  As the UK government seeks to update its counterterrorism strategy (or CONTEST) in 2023, the UK and the United States will coordinate closely on numerous strategic alignment issues and to develop a shared picture on emerging risks.  The UK is a key member of the Five-Country Ministerial, which promotes multilateral, ministerial dialogue on border security and counterterrorism.  The UK cooperates with other OSCE participating states in countering terrorism.

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