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Monday, April 19, 1999 Published at 17:50 GMT 18:50 UK


UK

Combat 18's hardline racism

Combat 18 was an off-shoot of the BNP

If the nail bomb in Brixton and the new attack in Brick Lane was sent by the far-right group Combat 18, it marks a significant escalation in the group's tactics.

The highly secretive organisation has attracted notoriety in the past - particularly after it claimed to have organised fighting at the England-Ireland football match at Lansdowne Road in 1995.


[ image: Combat 18 is thought to have links with foreign neo-Nazi groups across Europe]
Combat 18 is thought to have links with foreign neo-Nazi groups across Europe
Whether it did or not, the group's name, which is based on Adolf Hitler's initials - the first and eighth letters in the alphabet - raised its public profile.

In 1997, the underground group was back in the news after Danish police seized three letter bombs hidden in videocassettes and destined for London addresses. Combat 18 was believed to have been behind the operation.

Far-right rivals were targeted but celebrities including former swimmer Sharron Davies also found themselves on the hit-list.


[ image: Swimmer Sharron Davies was targeted. Her husband is black]
Swimmer Sharron Davies was targeted. Her husband is black
When left-wing actress Vanessa Redgrave received threats from a group believed to be Combat 18, Scotland Yard installed alarms and safety devices at her home.

Tottenham Hotspur owner Alan Sugar was also said to have been targeted, as were MPs Paddy Ashdown and Peter Hain, and journalists Anna Ford and Bernard Levin.

Last month British police carried out a series of raids on members of the neo-Nazi group, seizing computer disks, weapons and ammunition.


[ image: Combat 18's logo]
Combat 18's logo
In a separate incident also in March, two British soldiers were arrested on suspicion of having links with the group. It prompted the Armed Forces minister, Doug Henderson, to warn that servicemen with ties to racist organisations risked the being thrown out of the Forces and prosecution.

In 1997, three members were jailed at the Old Bailey for possessing racist publications, and later that year, Mark Atkinson was jailed for publishing its Stormer magazine.

Atkinson was caught with hundreds of copies of the 12-page magazine, described by Judge George Bathurst-Norman, as containing "vile out-pourings of hatred and incitement to violence".

One of the magazine's targets was Lynette Bruno, the elderly mother of boxer Frank Bruno.

Members of the group are believed to call the UK government "Zog", standing for "Zionist Occupation Government", and base their philosophy on hard-line racism and opposition to immigration.

It rejects the approach of some previous racist groups of persuading people to join its cause, preferring direct action instead. Membership has been estimated at between 40 and 200.

Charlie Sargent, a one-time leader of the group, who was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1998 for the murder of a fellow Combat 18 member, told Nick Ryan of the Independent on Sunday: "I don't vote. What's the point? I'm not gonna play their f****** silly little games _ Race not Nation - we're not British nationalists, we're racialists."

This is an attitude consistent with the group's slogan "White revolution is the only solution".


[ image: Neo-Nazis have been linked to football hooliganism]
Neo-Nazis have been linked to football hooliganism
It is thought that the group, which was formed in 1992 from the security wing of the British National Party, controls a highly profitable music business, selling CDs and merchandising of far-right bands.

But Gerry Gable, publisher of the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight, was sceptical of any Combat 18 involvement in the Brixton bombing.

"If you look at what's happened to them recently, they've been so well infiltrated by the police, the army and anti-fascists like us, they couldn't sneeze without us knowing," said Mr Gable

But he did not rule out that the attack could have been racially motivated.

"If it's a racial attack, it could be someone who has been in Combat 18 has got increasingly frustrated with the lack of action and decided to do it themselves. The technology needed to make a bomb is so simple and easy to find," he said.



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