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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Breivik sent 'manifesto' to 250 UK contacts hours before Norway killings

If the English Defence League is feeling bruised by the barrage of publicity over the interest that the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik has shown in the group, its leaders were not betraying any misgivings yesterday.

Quite the reverse. The far-Right organisation appeared unrepentant over the furore as it took the opportunity to promote its anti-Islamist agenda.

In a posting on its website, the EDL published a list of newspaper articles which it claimed illustrated "the problem of Islamic extremism" that "we are living with every week".

It included reports of arrests in Birmingham on suspicion of terrorism, a man's court appearance at the Old Bailey on charges of funding terrorist training in Somalia, and arrests of Britons in Afghanistan. The anonymous author wrote: "In a week that has seen such a terrible act of terrorism in Norway, we almost decided against publishing the following short article. But that would be to do a disservice to all those who continue to suffer as a result of Islamic extremism."

He added: "Now, therefore, is as good a time as any to continue to highlight cases of Islamic extremism."

Detectives are probing Breivik's boasts that he met "tens of EDL members and leaders" in the decade leading up to Friday's massacre. He claimed in his 1,500-page "manifesto", posted online, to have visited Britain twice since 2002 to attend EDL rallies and had more than 600 EDL supporters as Facebook friends.

Police in Britain and Norway are also investigating his claims to have met a group of ultra-nationalists in London nine years ago at which they vowed to resist the spread of Muslim influence across Europe.

Scotland Yard is understood to be probing whether he met former members of the Neo-Nazi groups Combat 18 and Column 88 – both now considered defunct – at that time.

However, security sources believe that Breivik is most likely to have been a lone wolf similar to David Copeland, the London "nailbomber" who killed three people in 1999, and suspect that his assertion to have been part of a far-Right uprising is fantasy.

But the resultant publicity has left the EDL – which is known to be infiltrated by Special Branch and the security services – in an unprecendented media spotlight. With its links to football hooliganism, it had been previously most associated with street protests sometimes degenerating into violence.

Founded in 2009 by Stephen Lennon, who was this week convicted of leading a group of Luton Town supporters in a massive street brawl, the EDL repeatedly stresses it is only concerned with fighting "militant Islam".

Its leading figures, none of whom have experience in mainstream politics, operate as a loose network.

On Monday, Mr Lennon made a rare foray before the television cameras to ridicule suggestions of links with Breivik, suggesting the EDL is changing its strategy in dealing with the media.

Searchlight, the anti-fascist magazine, said the 32-year-old used the pseudonym of a 12th-century Norwegian king who led one of the Crusades to communicate with people on an English Defence League forum.

In one posting, on 9 March, the author called on rightwing activists in the UK to "keep up the good work". The message said: "Hello. To you all good English men and women, just wanted to say that you're a blessing to all in Europe, in these dark times all of Europe are looking to you in such [sic] of inspiration, courage and even hope that we might turn this evil trend with islamisation all across our continent. Well, just wanted to say keep up the good work it's good to see others that care about their country and heritage. All the best to you all. Sigurd."

Breivik boasted about his links to the UK far-right group in his manifesto. He also wrote that he was given the codename "Sigurd (the Crusader)" at a founding meeting of a group called the Knights Templar Europe in London in 2002. There is no confirmation that the author is Breivik. Sigurd is a common name in Norway.

In other messages, "Sigurd" says he attended a football ground in the UK and expressed his admiration for the EDL.

"I've seen with my own eyes what has happened to england, i was in bradford some years ago, me and a friend walked down to the football stadium of bradford, real 'nice' neighborhood, same thing in the suburbs of london. well thinking about taking a little trip over the sea and join you in a demo. would be nice with a norwegian flag alongside with union jack or the english flag, that is if a norwegian would be welcome offcourse?"

In another message, he goes on to discuss the situation in Norway.

"The biggest problem in Norway is that there is no real free press, there is a left-wing angle on all the political topics so most people are going around like idiots. And offcourse with our norwegian labour party beeing in power for most of the last 50 years dont help. but i i think there is an awakening now at least i hope so."

In his manifesto, Breivik repeatedly refers to the EDL, stating at one point: "I used to have more than 600 EDL members as Facebook friends and have spoken with tens of EDL members and leaders."

"In fact, I was one of the individuals who supplied them with processed ideological material (including rhetorical strategies) in the very beginning."

"There also appears to be a growing dispute among some figures associated with the EDL over who Breivik's "mentor" Richard may be. In his manifesto, the Norwegian said he met "Richard" at the Knights Templar meeting in 2002 and says the pair became "close."

The EDL – which has staged a series of street demonstrations, many of which have turned violent, denies any links to Breivik and has condemned the killings, stating it is a peaceful organisation that rejects all forms of extremism.

Last night the EDL said in an emailed statement that it was "not aware of any contact between Breivik and EDL leadership … of anyone using the name Sigurd and the forum".

"You must realise anyone on the EDL Forum or EDL Facebook can join and make up any name that they may choose."

Since the killings there have been unconfirmed reports that Breivik attended EDL demonstrations in the UK last year – possibly in London and Newcastle

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