Boy aged nine pledged support for ISIS in London school classroom after watching execution videos online

The boy declared his support for the Islamic State said he had seen beheading videos on the internet.

A nine-year-old London schoolboy stood up in class to declare his support for the Islamic State after watching execution videos online, the Home Office revealed today - writes

The boy was among thousands of British children - including more than 500 girls under the age of 15 - identified as a potential extremists, the Home Office revealed today.

He said he had seen beheadings and the burning of people by IS after searching the internet for terrorist material following the Paris attacks two years ago.

The disclosure - which came as Home Secretary Amber Rudd met tech giants in the US to raise her concerns about extremist material online - was made as the government published the most detailed figures so far about the number of people referred to its “Prevent” counter-radicalisation programme.

The statistics, which cover the 12 months up to the end of March last year, show that 7,631 were referred to the scheme.

Of these, just under 5,000 were reported by schools, health staff, social workers or others over suspected Islamist sympathies, with a further 10 per cent referred over right-wing extremist fears.

Concerns about 381 people were so serious that they were placed onto a specialist programme, known as Channel, to address their radicalisation.

One in six of these withdrew before their courses were complete, with the remaining risk that they posed being left to police to address.

The most striking feature of the figures is the proportion of children and young people being reported over suspected extremist sympathies.

They include 2,127 children aged under 15 - equivalent to 28 per cent of all Prevent referrals - and another 2,147 aged between 15 and 20.

Across all age groups, females accounted for 1,597 referrals to Prevent, representing a fifth of the overall total.

Officials said that “more and more” cases involved children seeing extremism material online and gave the disturbing example of the nine-year-old London boy, given the pseudonym Haroon.

“He stood up in class and said ‘I support Islamic State’,” a senior Home Office official said. “He had seen execution videos, beheadings and burning people.”

Officials added that 2,000 pieces of online terrorist propaganda are currently being removed each week by police.

The disclosures will heighten concern about the ongoing threat posed by extremist content on social media and the danger that young minds, in particular, are being polluted by online violence.

The figures published today also show that a quarter of those referred to the Prevent programme during 2015/16 were from London.

Of these 1,915 people, a total of 1,386 were referred over concerns about Islamist extremism. Another 483 were referred over “unspecified” or “other” concerns. The remaining 46 were referred because of fears about right wing extremist sympathies.

More than a third of the 759 referred over right wing extremism were aged between 15 and 20.

Right wing referrals were highest in the North East, which accounted for 21 per cent of the total.

Security minister Ben Wallace said the government was publishing the statistics to improve “transparency” and insisted that the scheme was working.

He added: “The voluntary Channel scheme has seen real results in helping divert people away from terrorism and violence.

“There is still a way to go to improve the approach and awareness of how to better safeguard our children and vulnerable adults, but the policy is going in the right direction.”

Since 2015, teachers, university staff, health and social workers, and other public employees have a statutory duty to refer people about whom they have extremist concerns to the Prevent scheme.

After assessments are made, no further action is taken against most of those referred. But those about whom there are continuing concerns are asked to go on the voluntary “Channel” programme.

Some refuse and others withdraw before completion but Home Office officials insist that most cases price successful and lead to the person abandoning their extremist sympathies.

The nine-year-old boy who watched the IS videos is understood to have returned successfully to mainstream education and to be no longer viewed as an extremist risk.

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