The would-be terrorist’s plans were chilling, written out in detail alongside neo-Nazi tropes in his manifesto. The list of targets included post offices, pubs, schools and banks (for “obvious reasons,” he wrote), and they were accompanied by a list of at least 19 firearms he dreamed of acquiring.
The plot, while frightening, is not necessarily surprising for analysts of far-right terrorism. Many of the ideological themes, justifications and targets were familiar. But the case is still shocking: The plotter was just 13 when he began radicalizing and 16 when he was convicted, in November 2019, of planning six terrorist attacks. According to reports, at the time of his arrest he was the youngest person convicted of plotting a terrorist attack in the U.K.
This is not a one-off. Recent years have revealed a scary, dangerous new era in which children have been taught to hate, are recruiting others and are plotting terrorist attacks. While several schemes conceived by young far-right extremists were thwarted, the future may be bleaker. We have missed emerging trends in the past; counterterrorism professionals must urgently renew their vigilance — and implement new countermeasures — over the radicalization of young people in the West and beyond.