London terror attack: British officials eye burka ban and stripping citizenship

Hollie McKay

After yet another deadly terrorist attack swept through the streets of Britain late Saturday, lawmakers and leaders were scrambling to take back the reins and foil any further tragedies.

British Prime Minister Theresa May, speaking Sunday after a meeting of the government’s COBRA emergency committee, claimed there was “too much tolerance” of Islamist extremism in the U.K. and insisted that the country’s counterterrorism strategy would be reviewed.

While such reviews remain in preliminary stages, a British intelligence source told Fox News that it is an “all hands at the pump” approach, with Joint Intelligence Operations to be carried out collaboratively with M15, Scotland Yard and the Army’s Special Air Service (SAS) all involved.

The points of focus include: recruiting and deploying even more counterterrorism officers, and pushing through new laws to “round up” suspected terrorists and, if convicted, stripping them of their citizenship as a deterrent.

“There is also early talk that things could go as far as banning the burka,” the source said.

The burka debate has, for more than a decade, divided much of the British community. In 2006, MP and government minister Jack Straw first advocated support for such a prohibition in the media, but several years later apologized following the backlash. Nearby European countries such as France, Austria, Germany and Belgium have, over the years, implemented different degrees of legislation to restrict the wearing of full-face veils.

“It is just whispers at the moment, but if that goes live, one would guess that it will be enforced across the U.K.,” the source noted.

Furthermore, the U.K. government is said to be planning how to dismantle the pockets of extremism and enforce better mechanism for community integration.

“There are a lot of Muslim strongholds in the U.K. from London and Luton to Birmingham, Burnley and Blackburn,” added the intel source. “Right now, through weak policies, we have allowed the fundamentalists to spoil it for the majority.”

British authorities also are said to be looking at ways to “force large Internet companies to ban extremist material on their search engines and additionally report any content that they find.”

In her address Sunday, May vowed that the Internet could no longer function as a “safe space” for jihadism. Another intelligence source confirmed that May’s focus is very much on the role of the Internet – restricting and monitoring – in the quest to infiltrate where cells congregate and how they communicate.

Seven people died and 48 were wounded – several critically – when three masked assailants plunged a van into pedestrians on London Bridge. The attackers, also donning fake suicide vests, then embarked on an on-foot stabbing spree at a nearby bar and were quickly shot dead by police. Tony Schiena, founder and CEO of Multi Operational Security Agency who has been in contact with officials, told Fox News that the vests were “stab proof,” but not even bullet proof.

Authorities announced Sunday that raids were under way and that 12 individuals had been arrested in connection with the latest attacks. Saturday’s assault marks the third to have taken place in the U.K. in 2017 alone.



On May 22, a British suicide bomber slaughtered 22 people – including children – and injured dozens more after an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester. In March, a British convert to Islam killed four when he rammed his vehicle into people on Westminster Bridge, and then fatally stabbed a police officer outside Parliament.

The British Embassy in Washington, as well as a spokesperson for May, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Hollie McKay has been a staff reporter since 2007. She has reported extensively from the Middle East on the rise and fall of terrorist groups such as ISIS in Iraq. Follow her on twitter at @holliesmckay

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