Police and social workers suspected up to 28 young people from Brighton and Hove of planning to join jihadists abroad or commit terrorist violence at home.
The claim is made in an article in The Sunday Times today (Sunday 3 April). The newspaper said counterterrorism officers and officials from Brighton and Hove City Council shared their concerns in a secret assessment two years ago.
A similar claim was made in a Guardian article published on Thursday (31 March) which explored the background to the story which took a fatal turn in 2014.
That was the year when two brothers from Brighton – Abdullah and Jaffar Deghayes – were killed while fighting in Syria. Abdullah Deghayes was 18 and Jaffar 17.
They are believed to have travelled to Syria with their older brother, Amer, 22, who is believed to still be there.
Their childhood friend Ibrahim Kamara, 19, joined them and also died. Another young man from Brighton, 26-year-old Mohammed Raja Khan, went to Syria at about the same time and is believed to have become a senior commander in Jabhat al-Nusra. Jabhat al-Nusra is described as affiliated to al-Qaida.
The Sunday Times said: “Counterterrorism officials have identified 28 young people from Brighton, including five teenage girl converts to Islam, who plotted to go to Syria to join Isis or similar groups.
“The authorities also feared that members of the group, about half of whom are teenagers, could carry out a terrorist attack in Brighton using knives or a pistol.
“Three of the aspiring jihadists, including one girl, are understood to have been placed under court orders to stop them leaving for Syria.
“Another five, including three brothers, managed to get to Syria and join Jabhat al-Nusra, an affiliate of al-Qaeda.
“The size of the group in a city with a population of about 273,000 emerged as part of a review for the council into the three brothers, Amer, 22, Abdullah, 18, and Jaffar Deghayes, 17, who left their family home to join the terrorist group in Syria.
“Abdullah and Jaffar were killed fighting in 2014 as was their childhood friend Ibrahim Kamara, 19, who left Brighton to join them. Amer is understood to be still in Syria.
“The Sunday Times can reveal that a secret assessment by counterterrorism and council officials in Brighton in March 2014 reported fears that some of the 28 would seek to emulate the murder of Lee Rigby, the soldier knifed to death in southeast London in 2013.”
The newspaper also said: “Intelligence sources said that the 28 Brighton extremists were known to council officials and counterterrorism police and had been named on a list of people judged to be at ‘risk of travelling to Syria’.
“Up to 60 per cent of the aspiring Brighton jihadists are understood to be converts to Islam and at least one of the teenage girls has been referred to Channel, the government’s counter-radicalisation programme.
“The review into the affair is expected to be published shortly in a redacted format.
“The Sunday Times reported in February that it was expected to reveal that police and social services missed a number of chances over at least five years to counter the radicalisation of the Deghayes brothers.
“More than 800 British Muslims, including about 100 women, have travelled to Syria and Iraq to join jihadist groups. Up to 100 have been killed and about 450 are thought to have returned to Britain.
“Sussex Police declined to comment.”