Extremists radicalise on internet

Islamic extremists’ internet use is a challenge to all Western intelligence agencies and New Zealand cannot let its guard down, the Security Intelligence Service has warned.

In his final report before his retirement, former SIS director Richard Woods said while the risk of a terrorist attack in New Zealand was low, security agencies needed to remain vigilant.

He said the internet was central to the work of extremists.

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In his report, tabled in Parliament yesterday, Mr Woods said the SIS had previously outlined al Qaeda‘s move to become more of an inspirational force in Islamic terrorism.

From intelligence gathered in the past year, this process of localisation had continued and developed to the point of self-radicalisation, he said.

Overseas agencies had been surprised at the speed with which radicalised individuals could combine into groups which then developed into operational cells.

Previously it had been thought that such a development was the exception rather than the rule.

“Current thinking is that this is no longer the case and that an individual can become radicalised, become part of an extremist group and move to plan terrorist attacks in a period of months,” Mr Woods said.

These groups adopted good operational security practices and accessed the latest information on techniques and targets from the internet.

The internet allowed extremists to meet people with similar views and self-radicalise through chat rooms.

“The use of the internet by Islamic extremists poses a real challenge to all Western intelligence agencies. The service is no exception.”

Mr Woods said the SIS was not aware of any specific threat to New Zealand.

“But the continued trend towards localisation, use of the internet by extremists and the results of the service’s own investigations confirm the need for increased vigilance if New Zealand is to continue to be neither the victim nor the source of an act of terrorism,” he said in his report.

The service’s view was that most Muslims in New Zealand were law-abiding members of the community who were of no security concern. That was also true of immigrants, including foreign students, in general, he said.

The difficult task was to identify those few people who were of security concern and prevent terrorist attacks.

“No one, however well resourced, can guarantee that such an event will never occur.”

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Religion News Blog last updated this post on CET (Central European Time)