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Children being linked to alleged online terrorism offences – counter-terror head

Children being linked to alleged online terrorism offences – counter-terror head

Children as young as 11 are being linked to alleged online terrorism offences on a “monthly basis” following the Israel-Hamas conflict, UK counter-terror police say.

They say information from the public about potential extremist materials or behaviour jumped by 25% after October 7 2023, when Hamas attacked Israel.

Some 3,000 reports of online extremist behaviour have been received in that time, around 700 linked to the UK, a sevenfold rise from the same period last year.

This includes people who have never before engaged in extremist behaviour, as well as young children, counter-terror police said.

Head of counter terrorism policing Matt Jukes told the PA news agency: “People are either referring a combination of comments online which appear to support terrorist organisations, or they’re making referrals of material which seems to show and glorify terrorist acts, so people who are celebrating terrorism and terrorist organisations or people who are in a few instances actually sharing information about preparing for terrorism.

“So there’s a huge range, a lot more in text form, but also growing numbers of reports of video content as well.

“The online space is pretty difficult to get behind the identifiers of people, but there’s a real range, we’re seeing a combination of people we think who are stepping over a line that they may never have stepped over before, as well as potentially some people who’ve got a history of extremism.

“But we do see in the volume a clear picture that some people are getting involved in more and more extreme conversations online who potentially have never stepped over that line before.”

He added: “In all of our casework we see a really sad feature, which is the number of young people, as many as 20% of the people we arrest are children under 18.

“And we also see some very young children amongst that, 11-12 years old is sadly something we see in our casework on a monthly basis.”

One individual has been referred to the International Criminal Court over reported war crimes relating to the conflict.

The force has received 92 referrals of war crimes since October 7, 19 against Hamas and 73 against Israel.