City gyms, cafes and restaurants used for recruiting extremists, say police.
A top-level police report has revealed crime gangs in Birmingham are funding terrorism.
And the criminal groups now run 59 legitimate businesses in the city, often using them to launder money made from drug dealing, robberies, and even gun-running.
The potential threats facing Birmingham and its residents is laid bare in a detailed report compiled by the Assistant Chief Constable of West Midlands Police, Sharon Rowe.
It was written for Birmingham Community Safety Partnership, involving members of the city council, probation service, police and fire service.
The report, published online, confirms there are currently 28 organised crime gangs (OCGs) operating in the city and highlights the scale of their operations and influence.
But it is believed there are 306 OCGs whose criminality affects Birmingham.
The report states the Birmingham gangs now run 59 legitimate businesses, often using them to launder proceeds from their criminal activities, which include drug dealing, robberies, car key burglaries and even gun-running.
They include pubs, car washes and sandwich shops, which normally deal in cash.
For the first time, the report also reveals some of the groups are believed to be funding terrorism.
It states: “There is evidence that some Birmingham OCGs use the profits from crime to help fund terrorist activities.”
Hotspots identified for OCGs in some areas of the city are also the most vulnerable for terrorism, the report says.
It talks in more general terms about possible future terrorism threats in the city, following recent court cases.
They include the jailing of Birmingham-born extremists like Irfan Naseer, Ashik Ali and Irfan Khalid who led a suicide bomb plot that could have been ‘bigger than 7/7’. They are not named in the report.
Counter-terrorism led Operation Gamble, which uncovered a Birmingham plot to kidnap and behead a Muslim soldier, is mentioned by name in the report, but not ringleader Parviz Khan, 37, who was jailed for life.
The document says: “In Birmingham, work is underway to target those involved in facilitating and supporting terrorism.
“There is an inherent risk that networks engaged in support activities, such as fundraising, may launch attacks.
“This type of progression has been seen before in Birmingham, as demonstrated by sentences handed out to local residents for offences under the Terrorism Act.
“Influential extremists continue to operate in Birmingham, promoting extremist ideologies in order to recruit people to their cause.
“A number of locations within Birmingham, such as gyms, restaurants and cafes, are used to facilitate extremist activity by allowing key figures spaces to operate and promulgate their message.”
The greatest threat to the city is from individuals travelling overseas to take part in conflict or receive terrorist training who ‘subsequently come to Birmingham with enhanced intent and capability’, the report says.
Tribal Areas in Pakistan, Yemen and Syria are ‘attractive destinations’ for Western Muslim extremists, with strong evidence of ‘facilitation and support activities’ in Birmingham.
The report adds: ‘‘This includes fundraising, facilitation of travel, radicalisation and distribution of extremist material.
“However, as seen with Operation Gamble, operations can swiftly develop from facilitation and support to active attack, which remains a constant threat.
“An analysis of current investigations showed that the terrorist threat in Birmingham is diversifying.
“It involves people of Pakistani, Somali (including third country migrants from Scandinavia and the Netherlands), Algerian, Egyptian, Iraqi, Iranian, Lebanese, Libyan, most vulnerable to violent extremism.’’
The use of legitimate charities by extremists was also identified in Birmingham, the report said.
“The mainstream Muslim community legitimately donate considerable sums of money for charitable causes but extremist elements usurp this generosity by diverting the funds to further extremist purposes,’’ it says.
“International events such as the current turmoil in Gaza and Syria impact on local Birmingham communities, which presents new risks and challenges. These events can impact upon community tensions, be exploited for fundraising purposes or provide new destinations for extremist training.’’
The report also highlights potential threat from right-wing extremists in the city. But it adds: ‘‘However, no such group is judged to have the intent or capability to undertake terrorist acts at national level and this appears consistent in Birmingham where support for and activity by these groups is minimal.’’
The report reveals that nationally there are 7,300 separate Organised Crime Gangs, involving almost 39,000 criminals.
It is believed there are 306 OCGs whose criminality affects Birmingham.
Last autumn, West Midlands Police identified 28 of these as being based in the city, with more than 300 active organised criminals.
Birmingham, the report states, is now seen as a key location to source drugs, launder money or dispose of stolen property.
Most groups exploit multiple criminal opportunities to make cash, including drug importation and dealing, robberies, vehicle thefts and car-key burglaries, and money laundering. Many have links to firearms.
The report states: ‘‘There are 18 OCGs in Birmingham known to use firearms, though there is just one group linked to the importation and distribution of firearms in Birmingham and six across the region.
‘‘In the city, eight OCGs were linked to firearms or ammunition-related offences over the past 12 months. These account for 24 crimes with very few resulting in actual discharges.’’
The report also highlights ‘business links’ between the gangs. It notes: ‘‘Examples include links between drug importers and street level dealers, or the perpetrators of car key burglaries and those linked to vehicle ringing.
“Within Birmingham, eight OCGs are closely connected around Class A drug dealing.”