Four British soldiers have been arrested on suspicion of preparing acts as terrorism as suspected members of the banned neo-Nazi group National Action.
The men, from the Midlands, Suffolk and Wales, were detained by counter-terror police in a series of raids on Tuesday and their homes are being searched.
West Midlands Police said the suspects are a 22-year-old man from Birmingham, a 32-year-old man from Powys, a 24-year-old man from Ipswich and a 24-year-old man from Northampton.
“They have been arrested on suspicion of being concerned in the commission, preparation and instigation of acts of terrorism under Section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000; namely on suspicion of being a member of a proscribed organisation, National Action”, a police spokesperson said.
“The arrests were pre-planned and intelligence-led; there was no threat to the public’s safety”, the spokesperson added.
“We can confirm that a number of serving members of the Army have been arrested under the Terrorism Act for being associated with a proscribed far right group”, an Army spokesperson said.
“These arrests are the consequence of a Home Office Police Force led operation supported by the Army”.
National Action became the first extreme right-wing group to be banned under terrorism laws after the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox last year, whose killing the group had praised.
The designation meant that being a member of or inviting support for the group is a criminal offence carrying a sentence of up to ten years in prison.
National Action was established in 2013 and had several branches across Britain that launched provocative protests aimed at intimidating local communities.
““Its activities and propaganda materials are particularly aimed at recruiting young people”, the Government’s official designation says.
“The group is virulently racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic. Its ideology promotes the idea that Britain will inevitably see a violent ‘race war’, which the group claims it will be an active part of”, the document explains.
“The group rejects democracy, is hostile to the British state and seeks to divide society by implicitly endorsing violence against ethnic minorities and perceived ‘race traitors’”.
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Britain is on its second-highest terror threat level, “severe”, which means an attack is highly likely.
The UK’s senior counter-terrorism officer warned earlier on Tuesday that it would remain at that level for at least five years after a “summer like no other” of deadly Islamist terror attacks.
Last month a senior police chief said the number of reports to the authorities about suspected right-wing extremists had doubled since the murder of Cox, who was killed in June 2016 by a man obsessed with Nazis and white supremacist ideology.
The rise of neo-Nazi groups across the world was brought to the fore of the public consciousness last month when a counter-protester was killed at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.