our serving members of the Army have been arrested under the Terrorism Act on suspicion of being members of banned neo-Nazi group National Action.
The men – a 22-year-old from Birmingham, a 32-year-old from Powys, mid Wales, a 24-year-old from Ipswich and a 24-year-old from Northampton – were detained as part of a “pre-planned and intelligence-led” operation and there was “no threat to the public’s safety”, West Midlands Police said.
National Action, described by the Home Office as “virulently racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic”, became the first extreme right-wing group to be banned under terrorism laws in December 2016.
In a statement, police said the suspects were arrested “on suspicion of being concerned in the commission, preparation and instigation of acts of terrorism under Section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000; namely on suspicion of being a member of a proscribed organisation (National Action) contrary to sec 11 of the Terrorism Act”.
An Army spokesman said: “We can confirm that a number of serving members of the Army have been arrested under the Terrorism Act for being associated with a proscribed far right group.
“These arrests are the consequence of a police-led operation supported by the Army. This is now the subject of a civilian police investigation and it would be inappropriate to comment further. Any further inquiries should be made to the West Midlands Police Force.”
All four are being held at a police station in the West Midlands and a number of properties are being searched.
An entry for National Action in the official list of proscribed groups says it is a “racist neo-Nazi group” that was established in 2013 and has branches across the UK which “conduct provocative street demonstrations and stunts aimed at intimidating local communities”.
The document adds that the group is “virulently racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic”.
Its activities and propaganda materials are particularly aimed at recruiting young people, according to the list.
The document also links National Action to the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox in 2016.
It said the group’s online propaganda material frequently features extremely violent imagery and language, and cited tweets posted in connection with Ms Cox’s murder at the hands of right-wing extremist Thomas Mair.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd took the decision to proscribe National Action after an assessment that it was “concerned in terrorism” ahead of Mair’s trial.
Police said 22 suspected members or associates of National Action were arrested in 2016.
The proscription means that being a member of or inviting support for the organisation is a criminal offence carrying a sentence of up to 10 years’ imprisonment.
The arrests on Tuesday were carried out with West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit in conjunction with the Wales Extremism Counter Terrorism Unit and the East Midlands Counter Terrorism Intelligence Unit.