Thousands of radical extremists must be locked up in new internment camps to protect Britain from the unprecedented terror threat it faces, a Muslim former police chief declares today.
Writing exclusively for The Mail on Sunday, Tarique Ghaffur warns there are too many extremists on the streets for police and MI5 officers to monitor.
Mr Ghaffur, an Assistant Commissioner at Scotland Yard when the 7/7 bombings took place, proposes that special centres be set up to detain as many as 3,000 extremists, where they can be kept from launching attacks.
They would also be made to go through a de-radicalisation programme.
He admits that the internment of IRA members in Northern Ireland during the 1970s led to a violent backlash and hunger strikes.
But Mr Ghaffur believes the idea would work for extremists if the camps were approved by imams, whom he believes should also issue a ‘fatwa’ condemning atrocities such as the suicide bombing in Manchester that left 22 dead.
He says: ‘Let us have a proper national debate about this, and not be afraid to speak openly for fear of offending any communities, or for the sake of political correctness.’
Internment was introduced in Northern Ireland in 1971 in an attempt to quell the rising violence, and over four years almost 2,000 alleged paramilitaries were held without trial in makeshift camps.
But it led to an upsurge in bloodshed as well as political protests, and was later abandoned.
However, Mr Ghaffur, once Britain’s most senior Asian officer, says that it is needed now to deal with the growing number of dangerous extremists in the country, more than 400 of whom have fought for Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.
Yesterday it emerged that MI5 has identified 23,000 jihadis in the UK in recent years, of whom 3,000 are still considered a threat.
He writes: ‘We face an unprecedented terrorist threat – about 3,000 extremists are subjects of interest to MI5 and police, and about 500 plots are being monitored. The numbers are way too many for the security services and police to monitor.’
Mr Ghaffur says that the solution is to set up special centres where the 3,000 or so extremists can be detained.
Locking up terror suspects without trial has been discussed by Government, it has emerged.
The plan would be to lock them up in internment camps if the situation worsens in the UK.
‘These would be community-based centres where the extremists would be risk-assessed. Then the extremists would be made to go through a deradicalisation programme, using the expertise of imams, charity workers and counter- terrorism officers.’
Mr Ghaffur adds: ‘These centres would have oversight from vetted Muslim and other community leaders, who would ensure they stayed within the law.’
Internment for jihadis was also proposed last week by Colonel Richard Kemp, the former British Army commander in Afghanistan. However, former Scotland Yard Commissioner Lord Blair said it would be ‘counter-productive’ as it would anger the Muslim community, whose co-operation is needed to root out terrorists.
And former Security Minister Lord West warned: ‘Internment would be bad for our standing in the world, and also our position would not be good in fighting terrorists. Like as in war, we have to be whiter than white, and so we would not look good against the terrorists we are fighting.
Secondly, I don’t think it will work at a practical level, as I don’t want these extremely dangerous, drug-taking jihadis put in the same place as more vulnerable ones.’ Lord Carlile, former terror law watchdog, added: ‘Internment camps would not be lawful, and would not work.
‘They did not work in Northern Ireland, and even during World War Two, when there was internment, Churchill said he found it extremely distasteful, and that’s when we faced a real threat of invasion.’