Prevention and Suppression of Terrorism

Part of Deferred Divisions – in the House of Commons at 7:16 pm on 21st January 2015.

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Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire Minister of State (Home Office) (Security and Immigration) 7:16 pm, 21st January 2015

I beg to move,

That the draft Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) Order 2015, which was laid before this House on 19 January, be approved.

Seventeen people were killed and a number injured in the appalling attacks in Paris earlier this month, while in December we saw deadly and callous attacks in Sydney and Pakistan. There can be no doubt that the terrorist threat we face is grave and relentless. The threat level in the UK, which is set by the independent Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, remains at “severe”, meaning that a terrorist attack in our country is highly likely and could occur without warning.

We can never entirely eliminate the threat from terrorism, but we are determined to do all to minimise the threat from terrorism to the UK and our interests abroad, and proscription is an important part of the Government’s strategy to disrupt terrorist activities. The two groups we propose to add to the list of terrorist organisations, amending schedule 2 to the Terrorism Act 2000, are Jund al-Aqsa, also known as the Soldiers of al-Aqsa, and Jund al-Khalifa-Algeria, also known as the Soldiers of the Caliphate. This is the 17th proscription order under the Act.

Under section 3 of the Terrorism Act 2000, the Home Secretary has the power to proscribe an organisation if she believes it is currently concerned in terrorism. Given its wide-ranging impact, the Home Secretary exercises her power to proscribe only after thoroughly reviewing the available evidence on the organisation. The cross-Government proscription review group supports the Home Secretary in her decision making process. Having carefully considered all the evidence, the Home Secretary believes that Jund al-Aqsa and Jund al-Khalifa-Algeria are both currently concerned in terrorism.

Jund al-Aqsa is a splinter group of the al-Nusra front, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria. Since September 2013, the group has acted against the Syrian Government. It is a foreign fighter battalion comprising a variety of nationalities, as well as a native Syrian contingent. The group is primarily operating in Idlib and Hama. It is believed to be responsible for the attack on 9 February 2014 in Maan village, which killed 40 people, of whom 21 were civilians. In July 2014, it supported the Islamic Front in an operation to seize Hama military airport. In August 2014, the al-Nusra front released a document summarising its operations that included details of an attack targeting a resort hotel conducted in collaboration with Jund al-Aqsa.

Jund al-Khalifa-Algeria is an Islamist militant group believed to be made up of members of dormant al-Qaeda cells. It announced its allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in a communiqué released on 13 September 2014. In April 2014, it claimed responsibility for an ambush on a convoy that killed 11 members of the Algerian army. On 24 September 2014, the group beheaded a mountaineering guide, Hervé Gourdel, a French national. The abduction was announced on the same day that the spokesman for ISIL warned that it would target Americans and other western citizens, especially the French, after French jets joined the US in carrying out strikes in Iraq on ISIL targets.

In conclusion, I believe it right to add both groups to the list of proscribed organisations in schedule 2 to the Terrorism Act 2000. Subject to the agreement of this House and the other place, the order will come into force on Friday 23 January.