Four alleged members of a banned neo-Nazi group, including British soldiers, have been arrested on suspicion of terror offences. A fifth person, a civilian, has also been arrested on the same charge.
The men, from the Midlands, Suffolk and Wales, were detained by counter-terror police in a series of raids and their homes are being searched.
“We can confirm that a number of serving members of the Army have been arrested under the Terrorism Act for being associated with a proscribed far right group,” an Army spokesperson said.
“These arrests are the consequence of a Home Office Police Force led operation supported by the Army.
“This is now the subject of a civilian police investigation and it would be inappropriate to comment further.”
West Midlands Police said the suspects are a 22-year-old man from Birmingham, a 32-year-old man from Powys, a 24-year-old man from Ipswich and a 24-year-old man from Northampton.
A spokesperson added: “They have been arrested on suspicion of being concerned in the commission, preparation and instigation of acts of terrorism under Section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000; namely on suspicion of being a member of a proscribed organisation, National Action.
“All four men are being held at a police station in the West Midlands.”
They were arrested in a joint operation by specialist counter-terror units for the East Midlands, West Midlands and Wales.
“The arrests were pre-planned and intelligence-led – there was no threat to the public’s safety,” a spokesperson added.
Section 41 gives police the power to arrest anyone “reasonably suspected to be a terrorist” without warrant.
West Midlands Police would not give further details of the men’s activities but the “commission, preparation and instigation” of terrorism encompasses a wide spectrum of acts include directly planning an attack, joining a prohibited group or giving effect to that intention.
National Action became the first extreme right-wing group to be banned in the UK in December, but investigations have found its members are still meeting in secret.
The Government’s list of proscribed terror groups describes it as “a racist neo-Nazi group” that was established in 2013 and had several branches in the UK that launched provocative protests and activity aimed at intimidating local communities.
“Its activities and propaganda materials are particularly aimed at recruiting young people,” the document says.
“The group is virulently racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic. Its ideology promotes the idea that Britain will inevitably see a violent ‘race war’, which the group claims it will be an active part of.
“The group rejects democracy, is hostile to the British state and seeks to divide society by implicitly endorsing violence against ethnic minorities and perceived ‘race traitors’.”
The Government said National Action’s online propaganda and social media glorified the use of extreme violence and terrorism for ideological goals, including praising the man who murdered Labour MP Jo Cox.
On post read “only 649 MPs to go” and included a photo of killer Thomas Mair with the caption “don’t let this man’s sacrifice go in vain” and “Jo Cox would have filled Yorkshire with more subhumans!”.
Another image celebrated the Isis-linked terror attack on an LGBT-friendly nightclub in Florida, and one showed a police officer’s throat being slit.
During a trip to the Buchenwald concentration camp in Germanylast year, masked members displayed their flag and performed Hitler salutes in what they called an “execution room”.
National Action, which describes itself as a “National Socialist youth organisation”, was known for using the phrases “Hitler was right” and “Britain is ours, the rest must go” at marches and online.
It used social media to call for a “white jihad” and “crusade” in Britain, as well as urging followers to “kick racism back into football” and go “paedophile hunting”, while claiming the refugee crisis was an international Jewish and Marxist conspiracy.
There are 71 such groups listed by the Home Office on its register .
They include a range of international and national groups, of which National Action was the first far-right group to be banned .