Terror groups exploiting coronavirus pandemic to radicalise new recruits, QC warns

Terrorist groups are using the pandemic lockdown to gather and radicalise new recruits by blaming coronavirus on the wrath of God, a top QC has warned.

Lord Carlile of Berriew said extremists groups are trying to use the Covid-19 global crisis to their advantage, particularly targeting vulnerable people who have been isolated by the lockdown and social distancing rules.

He said ISIS and Al Qaeda propaganda is claiming the virus is a divine punishment from God, while far right groups are latching on to conspiracy theories around the pandemic to boost followers.

Lord Carlile, who spent a decade as the UK independent reviewer of terrorist legislation, warned governments would be negligent to lower their guard against terrorism during the current crisis.

Terrorist groups are making efforts to use the Covid-19 global crisis to their advantage, he said, delivering the annual Barnard’s Inn Reading Lecture.

They are determined to try and capitalise on the new geopolitical realities.

They believe that key national and international institutions will be distracted by the crisis at home, that counter-terrorism, security, and military budgets will be reduced as a result of the economic consequences of the pandemic, that instability in conflict zones will continue with increasing numbers of refugees, and that unemployment and economic hardships will impact increasing numbers of potentially vulnerable people across the world.

In addition, the lockdowns imposed in many countries may have helped terrorist groups to recruit and radicalise new individuals.

Lord Carlile said terrorist attacks around the world have increased in the last few months, and studies suggest there has been a surge in interest in far-right propaganda which targets minority groups.

Far right is using the pandemic to advance its movement and ideology, he said.

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