Former Manchester extremist warns of far-right attack

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Media captionFormer Manchester extremist says he saw firebomb threats by far-right groups online

A former right-wing extremist has warned racist groups are becoming more violent and pose a "dangerous threat" to the UK.

The man, from near Manchester and who asked to be identified only as John, told the BBC he expected "the far-right will do an attack".

He had since been steered away from violence by the government's Prevent anti-terrorism programme, he said.

Police said the "threat from right-wing terrorism remains relatively small".

John, who is 19, said he became involved in right-wing extremism four years ago, a time when he was worried about his lack of job prospects.

"They're saying 'Oh, well, if we ever get in power we'll kick everyone out and what we'll do is give all the jobs to the working class British people'.

"They kind of see that as a solution to their problems," he said.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Counter-terrorism police say they have foiled four right-wing attacks in the UK in recent years

In the weeks after the 2017 Manchester Arena attack, in which Salman Abedi carried out a suicide bombing killing 22 people, John joined other right-wing extremists in marches through the city centre.

"Seventy per cent of me was there because of the adrenaline sort of buzz but there was 30% of me there because I genuinely believed in what people were saying," he said.

"People would often kind of say 'I'm going to be the first white suicide bomber'. Whether they were being serious or joking, I'm not too sure but I definitely heard people say that they're going to do that sort of stuff.

"The far-right are becoming a lot more violent," John said.

"I can't see it being the same as New Zealand [where 50 people were killed by a suspected right-wing extremist in March], but I do think there will be another incident of some type, where the far-right will do an attack," he said.

'Gone to prison'

In April, security minister Ben Wallace said it was "perfectly possible" an attack like that in New Zealand could take place in the UK.

And a counter-terrorism expert previously told the BBC right-wing extremism posed the biggest threat to the north of England.

John was referred to the government's Prevent programme after expressing his anti-immigrant views at college and said the experience had changed him.

Without this intervention, John said he would have eventually got involved in "hand-to-hand" violence himself, most likely at protests with anti-fascist demonstrators.

"I would have gone to prison," he said.

Number of extreme right-wing referrals to Prevent

2017-18, England and Wales, by counter terrorism region

Source: Home Office

The North West had the second highest number of extreme right-wing referrals to Prevent in England during 2017-18, at 216.

There were 461 Islamist extremists referred to Prevent over the same period in the region.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Jo Cox MP represented in the constituency of Batley and Spen. She was murdered in her constituency in 2016.

Right-wing extremism has been linked to violent attacks in the recent past.

Labour MP Jo Cox was murdered in her West Yorkshire constituency in 2016 by Thomas Mair, who was described in court as a lonely Nazi sympathiser.

Greater Manchester Police Assistant Chief Constable Russ Jackson said: "The actual threat from extreme right-wing terrorism remains relatively small.

"This said, it is something we take very seriously, which is reflected in the fact that about 14% of the investigations we have relate to the extreme right wing."

You can see more about this story on North West Tonight at 18:30 BST on May 7, 2019 or for 28 days afterwards on BBC iPlayer.

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