UK universities come under MI6 scanner

Spy agencys monitoring intended to weed out fledgling terrorists
Last Updated 10 January 2010, 17:30 IST

An unnamed university source told “Sunday Express” newspaper: “MI6 agents used to come in once at the beginning of the academic year to ask about students from potentially “difficult” countries.

“They would want to know where they lived, and the accommodation officers had to be sure that if the students shifted to another place, the change of address was recorded and forwarded onto the relevant security services.
“In recent months, they have upped those visits in some cases to twice a month where they think there could be problems brewing with radicalisation of students.”
At least five campuses are under special watch — University College London, Brunel University in west London, Bedfordshire University in Luton, Sheffield Hallam University and Manchester Metropolitan University, the newspaper said.
In fact, MI6 officers have been frequently visiting the varsity campuses and are advising lecturers and tutors on how to spot extremists who might be using colleges as recruiting grounds and how to “profile” the would-be radicals so they can spot those most likely to drift into extremism.

Students from Libya, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Egypt have long been unofficially monitored by university staff in charge of allocating accommodation.
One source said: “Funnily enough, they were all sponsored by their governments and none of them over here were studying English, it was all nuclear physics and engineering. Their addresses were kept a close eye on and if they moved they had to tell us and we would pass on the information to the appropriate authorities.”
The MI6 guidance directs staff to watch closely vulnerable first-year students, who may be lonely and missing family, and therefore at most risk from the grooming techniques used by militant recruiters.

Additional support for students has also been put in place so that they have someone to turn to if they’re approached by radicals, while moderate imams have been recruited to universities where insurgents have been known to operate, the report said.

‘Kids being groomed as terrorists’
A number of children in Britain, as young as seven, are being groomed by jihadists as potential “terrorists” and “suicide bombers”, reports PTI from London, quoting a media report on Sunday. According to “The Sunday Times”, the British police have identified at least 10 primary school students, aged between seven and 10, who are at the risk of being radicalised and turning to violence.Some have taken inspiration from jihadi websites or after viewing extremist material in bookshops.
Other youngsters were identified by their parents after suddenly adopting traditional Muslim dress or espousing extremist views, the report said.
In fact, 228 people in total, mostly teenagers and young men aged between 15 and 24 years, have been referred to the anti-terrorism Channel project, a government outreach programme, after being singled out as “potentially vulnerable to violent extremism”, the newspaper said.

(Published 10 January 2010, 17:30 IST)

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