UK police step up patrols around mosques following New Zealand shootings

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UK police have stepped up patrols around mosques following the attack in New Zealand.

Officers were deployed to provide reassurance and advice on protective security as Muslims attended Friday prayers around the country.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid was also due to hold talks with anti-terrorism chiefs and security officials to discuss possible further measures to protect mosques in the UK.

National policing lead for counter-terrorism Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said: “Whilst there is no intelligence linking these appalling events in Christchurch to the UK, additional uniform patrols will continue in London and nationally over the coming days, focusing on places of worship and specific communities.

“We are paying specific attention to Mosques, particularly Friday prayers.

“Many communities will be understandably concerned and local officers will be out and about providing reassurance and protective security advice to communities, places of worship and businesses.

“Our utmost priority is keeping the public safe. Counter Terrorism Policing and security partners continue to work tirelessly to stop and disrupt attacks in the UK and to prevent people from being drawn into violent extremism.

“Police also routinely carry out daily activities to provide protection and security to the public, institutions and businesses. This activity remains under constant review to counter the threats that the UK is facing.

“The public also has a part to play – and I would urge everyone to remain vigilant and report anything suspicious to police.”

Security minister Ben Wallace told the House of Commons that he and the Home Secretary would be speaking with police counter-terrorism leaders and security services “to discuss what further measures we can take to protect our mosques and our communities from any threats here in the United Kingdom”.

West Midlands Assistant Chief Constable Matt Ward said officers will be engaging with key religious buildings to reassure local people.

He added: “We will continue to work closely together and unite against those who seek, through violence and extremism, to intimidate or cause fear.

“For us the focus now is the protection of those we serve in the West Midlands. As we are all very aware we face a sustained and determined threat to our security.”

Harun Khan, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), called on the Government to redouble efforts to ensure mosques are protected.

He said: “As the rest of us prepare to undertake our own Friday prayers today, we do so with the anxiety as to whether our mosques and communities are safe in the face of unabated Islamophobia and hostility against Muslims.”

Greater Manchester Police Assistant Chief Constable Russ Jackson said: “We have nothing to suggest a threat locally, but regardless of this we want to reassure people and so we will be increasing patrols in and around local mosques. We are also making direct contact with trustees and representatives of mosques to explain what we are doing.”

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said there would be increased “high-visibility” policing around mosques in the capital in the coming days.

The MCB also urged the Home Office to keep open its places of worship security fund on an ongoing basis.

Launched in 2016, the scheme helps churches, mosques, temples and gurdwaras to install alarms, security lighting and CCTV cameras to deter attackers.

Bids for up to £56,000 per place of worship could be submitted between June and August last year.

The potential for mosques to be targeted was underlined in the Finsbury Park attack in 2017.

Experimental figures published by the Home Office last year indicated that in 2017/18, where the perceived religion of the victim was recorded, just over half (52%) of religious hate crime offences recorded by police in England and Wales were targeted against Muslims.

British security chiefs have warned of a rising threat from far-right terrorism.

Police say they have foiled four extreme right-wing plots in the last two years.

MI5 is taking on an increased role in assessing and investigating extreme right-wing terrorism, which police have historically led on.

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