New CST terror database launched to help foil future attacks

Patterns revealed by the data may help researchers understand how to best protect the Jewish community


Two armed police officers on a street in Manchester keeping the public safe from terrorists

In 2017, Ummar Mirza was stopped by armed police and arrested. A following investigation revealed the Birmingham-based jihadi sympathiser had bought a knife online, practised using it on a dummy, and Googled potential Jewish areas to attack.

His foiled plot is just one of dozens now archived on a new terror database launched this week by the Community Security Trust (CST).

Researchers say it provides a unique public facing resource that will enable those trying to prevent future attacks to keep track of terrorism trends and patterns.

Speaking at the launch of the database, Suzanne Rain, former head of the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, said: “If you aim to protect people from terror, need to know what you are protecting people from.”

CST senior analyst Eran Benedek added: “Having a clear understanding of the threat landscape is a prerequisite for allocating appropriate security provision.

“As our databases show, between 2013 and 2012 the UK saw at least five terror plots that considered targeting UK Jewish communities. This included two jihadist extremist plots, and two or three right-wing extremist plots.”

The case of Mr Mirza, he said, provides a “disturbing example” of violent online material directly contributing to the target-selection process of a terrorist plotter.

Mr Benedek continued: “Ummar Mirza was directly inspired by the Telegram messages of ‘Lone Mujahid’: a then-anonymous IS-inspired activist who repeatedly disseminated links to the UK Jewish community locations and urged sympathisers to attack them.

“According to court records, Mirza’s search history shows that on the morning after he received Lone Mujahid’s messages he performed online reconnaissance on Jewish communities in the UK, and specifically against Birmingham central synagogue.”

The information contained in the database shows attempted and successful terror attacks against a range of targets in the UK, from both Islamists and the far-right.

It draws upon public sources from the police, the Crown Prosecution Service, and sentencing remarks from judges to provide information on the plans and motivations of terrorists.

While the database cannot be used to predict future plots, patterns revealed by the data may allow researchers to understand how to best protect the Jewish community.

Emily Winterbotham, Director of the Terrorism and Conflict research group at security think-tank the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), said: “We can’t understand the field unless we really track developments and examine trends. This is what my team at RUSI does… we are looking at and thinking about shifts in ideologies, new tactics, approaches, and we’re asking questions.

“We’re saying is this really new, for example, or what has changed? We’re also thinking about what does this mean for future threats…

“The more data we have, the easier it is to identify these trends.”

The inclusion of foiled terror plots in the database is key to that process, she added.

“Often when we look at terrorism we look at the attack and work backwards, and so the missing piece of the puzzle is what happens before an attack takes place.

“Providing this information gives a far greater picture of the state of terrorism in the UK today.”

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