This Year, Far-Right Terror Went Global

But few have paid attention

This Year, Far-Right Terror Went Global This Year, Far-Right Terror Went Global

Uncategorized November 19, 2013 0

Pavlo Lapshyn. West Midlands police photo This Year, Far-Right Terror Went Global But few have paid attention On April 25, a 25-year-old Ukrainian doctoral... This Year, Far-Right Terror Went Global
Pavlo Lapshyn. West Midlands police photo

This Year, Far-Right Terror Went Global

But few have paid attention

On April 25, a 25-year-old Ukrainian doctoral student named Pavlo Lapshyn arrived in the British city of Birmingham as part of a work-study arrangement with a software company. A shy, hard-working man, Lapshyn was reluctant to move to a foreign country where he would struggle with the language.

Five days after arriving, he stabbed to death an 82-year-old man named Mohammed Saleem.

Over the course of the next few months, Lapshyn would travel to nearby mosques,where he set and detonated homemade bombs wrapped in nails. None of his three bombing attacks killed or injured anyone. But the third bombing on July 12 was powerful enough to propel nails into trees.

Lapshyn is now in a British prison, where he will stay for 40 years before his partial life sentence comes up for parole. His stated motivation was to kill “non-whites.” The Guardian described the spate of violence as “one of the most serious right-wing terror campaigns to strike Britain.”

The case, however, attracted scant attention outside of Britain. The New York Times was an exception in the United States. But Lapshyn’s attacks received much less coverage than Michael Adebowale and Michael Adebolajo, two Islamist extremists who murdered British army Sgt. Lee Rigby on a Greenwich, London street in May.

According to Anton Shekhovtsov, a Ph.D. candidate who specializes in far-right extremism at University College London, the attacks by Lapshyn deserve more attention—as they represent the first known set of violent acts committed by a transnational, right-wing “lone wolf” terrorist.

That is, one who carried out a terrorist attack alone after traveling abroad.

For a lone wolf terrorist, this means carrying out violent acts while acting independently of a larger group. They may be inspired by others or radicalized over the internet, but they often have little or no involvement in extremist organizations. This also makes them very hard to detect.

“With Lapshyn, it is significant how he was first radicalized through reading various texts originating from different countries, different histories and contexts, but aggregated in one globalized space, in other words, the Internet,” Shekhovtsov tells War is Boring.

Wolverhampton mosque, sight of a 2013 bombing. Wikimedia / geograph.org.uk photo

Transnational terror

Lapshyn’s social media accounts featured a who’s-who of far-right extremists.

He read Russian language literature glorifying Timothy McVeigh, played a racist video game developed by the American neo-Nazi National Front and listened to German language white power music. Lapshyn was also member of the “Wotan Jugend — The Hammer of National Socialism” Web group on Russian social networking website VK and another called “Slavic Rebirth.”

It’s impossible to know exactly how Lapshyn was radicalized, or whether he decided to carry out an act of violence after he left Ukraine—although he appears to have experimented with explosives before leaving for Britain.

Shekhovtsov says that Lapshyn represents a new phenomenon in which Ukrainian ultra-nationalists have exported their particular brand of extremism abroad.

“Lapshyn literally crossed the national boundaries of Ukraine—where white terrorist activities would not make much sense as the country is at least 95 percent white,” he says. “And decided to defend the white race in a country which was foreign to him, yet so native to him, because he perceived England as a white country, part of the white world.”

This appears to be the first time that’s happened.

It’s all a little strange. For neo-Nazi groups and other white supremacist outfits, a central grievance is the fear over one’s country becoming more diverse, multi-ethnic and cosmopolitan. If you’re obsessed with your own race and nation, there’s a twisted but discernible logic in focusing your efforts against the perceived enemies within it.

“Lapshyn is a weird case. I know of no other where someone of the far right has gone abroad to commit acts of murderous violence against perceived racial enemies and not in one’s own country,” says Roger Grifffin, a political theorist at Oxford Brookes University.

Both Shekhovtsov and Griffin make several caveats. Ralf Wohlleben, former deputy national chairman of the German neo-Nazi National Democratic Party, was alleged to be involved in steering funding to racist Italian skinheads for the purposes of sowing violence against immigrants.

“[Norwegian right-wing terrorist Anders] Breivik, too, was radicalized through reading different materials from different national contexts, but he acted in his own country,” Shekhovtsov says.

There are even some older examples. During World War II, the Nazis recruited volunteers for fanatical Waffen SS units from nearly 30 countries. Lapshyn’s case also draws parallels with Islamic terrorism which “went transnational long before Lapshyn” he adds. Islamist extremist groups—including several engaged in the Syrian civil war—are able to recruit globally.

In this sense, Lapshyn became engaged in a form of far-right extremism which has increasingly globalized and begun to transcend national boundaries. Instead of prioritizing being a white Ukrainian or a white American and hating on everybody else, the emphasis has increasingly shifted to just ‘white.’

“The idea of international struggle is nothing new,” Griffin says. “But to go to start a postgraduate degree with the intention of fighting racial enemies as a lone terrorist certainly seems very unusual.”