White supremacist threat rising, security experts warn

People take part in an anti-racist and anti-fascist rally in the wake of the mass shooting at two Christchurch mosques, on March 16, 2019.
People take part in an anti-racist and anti-fascist rally in the wake of the mass shooting at two Christchurch mosques, on March 16, 2019.PHOTO: DPA

WASHINGTON - The Christchurch mosque massacres have turned the spotlight on rising white supremacism in America, where right-wing terrorists have inflicted considerable violence.

Yet white supremacists are not adequately prioritised as a security threat, contends former FBI agent Ali H. Soufan, who is founder of the security consultancy Soufan Group.

Mr Soufan told The Daily Beast: "The US government and the wider intelligence community are not recognising white supremacy as a terrorist network that's spreading in many western countries."

Journalist Nate Thayer, who specialises in researching white supremacism, noted that the mass murderer in New Zealand was "deeply intertwined with the international neo-Nazi movement, a connected community ... who advocate an Aryan armed jihad targeting non-whites and Jews. There are hundreds of similar, armed, extremist lone wolf operatives who commune on social media."

Asked at the White House on Friday whether white nationalists were a growing threat around the world, President Donald Trump was dismissive, saying: "I don't really. I think it's a small group of people that have very, very serious problems. It's certainly a terrible thing."

But the numbers don't lie, Mr Jonathan Greenblatt, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), wrote in January: "The fact is right-wing extremists collectively have been responsible for more than 70 per cent of the 427 extremist-related killings over the past 10 years, far outnumbering those committed by left-wing extremists or domestic Islamist extremists."

The ADL said that between 2009 and 2018, 73.3 per cent of all domestic extremist-related killings were perpetuated by right-wing extremists compared with 23.4 per cent by terrorists driven by Salafi jihadist ideology and 3.2 per cent by left-wing groups.

 
 
 

Last October 2018, a 46-year-old white supremacist attacked a synagogue in Pittsburgh, killing 11 people, the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the United States.

In February the FBI arrested US Coast Guard lieutenant Christopher Hasson, who hoped to establish a "white homeland" through violent means.

Hasson, 49, has pleaded not guilty to gun and drug charges. A search of his apartment produced 15 firearms, around 1,000 rounds of ammunition and a list of targets, including prominent liberal politicians and media personalities.

Nearby, a heavily armed policewoman tried to explain to two young girls she was holding a rifle to keep them safe, to which one of the girls responded by saying the gunman had used a rifle to kill people.

 

Last October the FBI arrested four members of a white supremacist group who have been charged with attacking counter-protesters at white nationalist rallies, including one in Charlottesville in August 2017 in which a young woman died.

The FBI indictment alleged that they were radicalised by and received training from Ukraine's neo-Nazi Azov Battalion, which reportedly gets funding from the government of Ukraine as well as the US and Israeli governments. s.

The Christchurch shooter's "manifesto" is called "The Great Replacement" - a common white supremacist trope. He also complained about "mass immigration" and warned of "the complete racial and cultural replacement of the European people".

Mr Thayer noted symbols on his gear that are used among neo-Nazis and white nationalist groups. "The symbols are shared global code tropes," Mr Thayer told The Straits Times.

"The NZ shooter is wholly hooked up with a global online driven Nazi conspiracy to launch these kind of attacks. They are applauding it. They likely knew it was going to happen. And it will happen again."