20 members of UK military referred to counter-extremism programme for Neo-Nazi activity
There have been concerns about extremist groups trying to infiltrate defence forces Representative image (iStock)
Dozens of UK military personnel have been investigated over their suspected far-right activity amid concerns that extremist groups seek to infiltrate defence forces.
Half of the 40 troops probed since 2019 have been referred to the government’s counter-extremism programme Prevent, The Times reported, citing a Freedom of Information disclosure.
It said two sailors were found to be members of the white nationalist group Generation Identity whose ideology contributed to the massacre at two mosques in New Zealand in 2019. They were reportedly referred to Prevent although they continued to remain in the military.
The revelations come months after the Intelligence and Security Committee said in its July report that groups with extreme ideologies were targeting military personnel as potential recruits.
In its July report, the committee said “extreme right-wing terrorists often display an interest in military culture, weaponry and the armed forces or law enforcement organisations”.
According to it, the director-general of the counter-intelligence and security agency MI5 noted that many of these people are absolutely fixated with weaponry and “this leads both to individuals seeking to join the military, and groups seeking to recruit within the military.”
Commons home affairs committee member Stuart McDonald said far-right extremists historically had ambitions to target and infiltrate the armed forces.
“Every instance of extremism in the military is of course hugely concerning,” the Scottish National Party MP said, pointing out that it was essential for the ministry of defence and the armed forces to continue to stamp it out.
Efforts had been made previously to root out extremist elements from the defence forces. Four army personnel were arrested in 2017 over their suspected links with the neo-Nazi group National Action. One of them, who had served in Afghanistan and wanted to help establish an all-white stronghold in a Welsh village was jailed for eight years for being a member of National Action.
Another soldier was removed from the army while two others were subjected to discipline within the armed force.
A defence ministry spokesperson told The Times that it took early action to confront behaviours that fell short of the high standards expected.
“Our chain of command are vigilant and procedures are in place to report and rehabilitate those who are at risk of being drawn into extremism,” the spokesperson said.