White House 'must shut down hate videos on YouTube'
Published 03/11/2010 | 11:02
British ministers have urged the White House to order US websites hosting al-Qaeda videos to remove them after a student inspired by online sermons tried to murder a Labour MP.
Roshonara Choudhry, 21, became the first al-Qaeda fanatic to attempt a political assassination in Britain when she stabbed Stephen Timms at his constituency surgery in May.
After she was convicted of attempted murder yesterday, it emerged that British-born Choudhry had been radicalised by watching internet videos of Anwar al-Awlaki, the Yemen-based terrorist wanted over last week's parcel bomb plot to blow up aircraft.
Ministers were angry that the US failed to regulate American-based sites that hosted the extremist videos, including YouTube.
More than 5,000 postings featuring Awlaki's videos were available on YouTube yesterday. In one sermon, titled 44 Ways to Support Jihad, he tells followers: "Jihad today is obligatory on every capable Muslim."
Baroness Neville-Jones, the security minister, called on President Barack Obama's administration to "take down this hateful material" in cases where servers were based in the US. She said websites that "incite cold-blooded murder" would "categorically not be allowed in the UK".
The Old Bailey heard that Choudhry, who told police she wanted to kill Mr Timms as "punishment" for his support of the invasion of Iraq, had been a moderate Muslim student looking forward to a career in teaching before she started to watch Awlaki's sermons online.
After making an appointment to see the East Ham MP at his surgery in east London, she stabbed him twice in the abdomen, causing injuries that could have been fatal if he had not been taken to hospital immediately. Mr Timms made a full recovery.
Police believe Choudhry was radicalised purely by Awlaki's online sermons, with no direct contact or other encouragement from extremists.
His teachings also inspired the US Army major who shot dead 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas, last year. He had been in email contact with the cleric. Awlaki was also linked to the September 11 attacks and the attempted bombing of an airliner over Detroit last year.
Lady Neville-Jones was so concerned about the problem that she flew to Washington last week to insist on action during a speech at the influential Brookings Institute think tank. In private comments to the institute, obtained by The Daily Telegraph, she said: "When you have incitement to murder, when you have people actively calling for the killing of their fellow citizens and when you have the means to stop that person doing so, then I believe we should act.
"Those websites would categorically not be allowed in the UK.
"They incite cold-blooded murder and as such are surely contrary to the public good.
"If they were hosted in the UK then we would take them down but this is a global problem. Many of these websites are hosted in America and we look forward to working even more closely with you to take down this hateful material."
The Home Office confirmed yesterday that pressure was being put on the White House to remove the sermons. A spokesman for the US State Department would say only that it had "significant legal authorities" to act "where activities on the internet pose a clear threat to the public".
Jonathan Evans, the director general of MI5, identified US-born Awlaki as being "of particular concern" because "he preaches and teaches in the English language, which makes his message easier to access and understand for Western audiences".
In September he warned of "a real risk that one of his adherents will respond to his urging to violence and mount an attack in the UK".
Security sources said yesterday that Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, of which Awlaki was the spiritual leader, was pursing a twin strategy of plotting “spectacular” atrocities such as last week’s airline plot, while encouraging “lone wolf” adherents to carry out their own attacks.
Choudhry, of East Ham, refused to enter a plea or appear in court, telling her defence team she did not recognise the court’s authority.
A jury took 14 minutes to find her guilty of attempted murder and possessing knives. She will be sentenced today.
Choudhry had compiled a list of MPs who had voted for the Iraq war before selecting Mr Timms, 55, as her target.
A spokesman for YouTube said it was looking into the Awlaki videos and would “remove all those which break our rules”.
He said the website had “community guidelines that prohibit dangerous or illegal activities such as bomb-making, hate speech or incitement to commit specific and serious acts of violence”.
The firm removed all videos from accounts “registered by a member of a designated foreign terrorist organisation”.
A Facebook page set up in the name of Awlaki had been taken down last night.