More young people being radicalised online, says UK counter-terror officer

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A senior counter-terrorism officer has warned that children and young people are increasingly being radicalised online after spending long periods on the internet during the pandemic.

Det Supt Andy Meeks said a growing number of vulnerable people were accessing extreme material after spending hours unsupervised online.

He said: “We have seen a significant increase in online investigations or investigations of individuals who’ve been committing acts of terrorism online.

“A lot, I think, coincided with the pandemic, when we saw a lot of people who spend extended periods online in isolation, and I think that has definitely led to an increase in this type of activity. It’s certainly an increased focus of our work in counter-terrorism policing.”

Meeks, the head of investigations for Counter Terrorism Policing North West, was speaking after a 20-year-old student was jailed for 13 years for preparing acts of terrorism by compiling and sharing a bomb-making manual.

Jacob Graham, a self-styled leftwing anarchist, had said he wanted to kill at least 50 politicians. He told his trial he was “quite anti-government”, adding: “I didn’t agree with the idea of it – the way certain things were handled, the pandemic, the cost of living.”

Graham had buried a knife and bomb-making chemicals in a woodland in Formby, near Liverpool. On the wall in his bedroom he had a printout of a car bomb exploding with the words: “Make politicians afraid to start their cars again.”

Meeks said Graham, who was 19 when he was arrested in May, had made a terror plan over “several months” from his bedroom at the home he shared with his mother in Liverpool.

He said the student had a grudge against his college because he had failed a computer science exam and that he was “fairly socially isolated” and did not appear to have any wider interests.

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