25/08/2017 Newsnight


With Naga Munchetty. Will the so-called Islamic State's collapse bring more terror? Plus violence in northern India, driverless lorries and could women beat men at the marathon?

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The battle for Raqqa is raging and the US-backed coalition


is closing in on the so-called Islamic State.


But as its grip on the caliphate weakens,


In the early years of the self-proclaimed caliphate,


the message was all about travelling out to Syria to help


Now, the message to supporters in the West is to stay away


and attack the "kaffir", disbelievers, at home.


Violent clashes leave at least 23 dead


in Northern India as a religious leader is convicted of rape.


We'll hear from an Indian journalist who has followed the case.


Also tonight, the Government announces the first


steps to self-driving lorries on Britain's roads.


So what does the future hold for those who drive for a living?


Well, I think it's going to be dangerous.


Why not? Well, it might kill somebody.


And a study suggests that women have more stamina than men.


So could there be female domination at endurance sports?


For more than three years, the black flags of so-called


Islamic State have cast a dark and bloody shadow


But soon they might flutter their last.


The battle for Raqqa, IS's defacto capital in Syria,


Still, as the self-styled caliphate crumbles, there are fears the group


will increase its efforts to terrorise Europe's shores -


and concerns about what might happen if its fighters return home.


This map shows how IS control in Iraq and Syria peaked in 2016.


Since then, its collapse has been swift.


This is the territory it controlled at the end of June this year.


Data from the Global Terrorism Database at the University


of Maryland show that between 2013 and 2016, there were 211


terror attacks outside Iraq and Syria by IS


Since 2013, five such attacks were in the UK.


Security sources say that in the last four years,


attack by a man outside Buckingham Palace.


Either way it shows that Britain is on high alert. It begs the question,


if IS is weakened in Syria, where will it turn attention to next?


Slowly but surely, so-called Islamic State's caliphate is being


IS is losing battle after battle on the ground.


But it's too early to say it's lost the war, because


as the state fails, it will continue in other forms.


It's a proto-state in Raqqa, and Mosul, and over those areas.


It's also an insurgency across Syria and Iraq.


And it's a terrorist movement to us here in the West.


It occupies all of these three states simultaneously.


Just because it's being pushed back as a state, that does nothing


So, what does this mean for the UK terror threat?


Around 850 jihadists from Britain have gone out


Half of the remainder, about 360, have already returned here.


But many of these are early adopters and may pose a lesser threat.


People who went in 2012 were motivated by very different


The drivers of their radicalisation, the pull, the alure,


When we talk about returnees in the UK, people who have come


back, they are pretty much people who went earlier on.


Many of those still in Syria will want to stay and die fighting.


And even if they did try to return, security sources have told Newsnight


that MI5 knows the identities of most of the 850 British


So, getting back into the UK undetected would be very difficult.


Plus Turkey and transit countries are cooperating with intelligence.


We know of one case of an individual with IS who did return to the UK,


So he travelled through various countries by road, by car,


and jumped on a ferry in the end, and came across the UK.


When he did, the police had been monitoring him and tracking him


the whole way across Europe so as soon as he set foot on these


He's been convicted, he is serving a sentence right


In Syria, IS's gradual defeat may actually spur supporters in the West


Official security sources have told Newsnight has been a marked


shift in IS propaganda, and this now is the major


threat against the UK, and not from fighters physically


Any early years of the self-proclaimed caliphate,


the message was all about travelling out to Syria to help


Now, the message to supporters in the West is to stay away


and attack the "kaffir", the disbelievers, at home.


The most recent attacks in Spain illustrate this well.


The leader of the plot, a preacher, was blown up


There is some evidence he spent time in prison with one of the terrorists


responsible for the 2004 Al-Qaeda train bombings in Madrid.


But there's no evidence yet of any link with Syria.


TRANSLATION: We have no evidence to prove that any of the attackers


Most of the attacks we discovered in Catalonia and Spain in the last


few years have been inspired by propaganda found online.


But it's usually low-key incidents, mainly propaganda and small-scale


terrorist financing, or sending recruits


So, how do you stop low-tech attacks using trucks or knives?


It's become much harder as the threat has diversified.


Al-Qaeda plots were relatively sophisticated,


There was a chain of command, networks to penetrate,


So is a shift in counter-terror tactics today required to combat


TRANSLATION: It's important to tackle the threat at all stages,


from the process of catching new recruits to Islamic State,


dealing with self-starters who are attracted to the propaganda,


and police techniques to detect and dismantle these extremist


Security sources here in the UK have told Newsnight that


when intelligence does not meet the threshold for terrorist


prosecutions, then they look for evidence of lesser crimes.


Arrests are then made to disrupt networks and plots.


A lot of people, myself included, would like to see the authorities


being far more disruptive in terms of arrests and prosecutions


of people who are engaging with this material, who are engaging


with spreading terrorist content, who are looking at that content


There needs to be a much tougher and proactive legislative


approach towards this, an arrest approach towards this.


One former counterterrorism police officer told us that low-level


crime often features in terrorist investigations.


But he says the UK has preferred to run investigations long,


with the aim of securing terrorist convictions.


We might find evidence of theft or credit card fraud,


So, on terrorism, it's simply the same thing.


For many years, I've been saying I don't know why we don't go


Given that MI5 has 500 active investigations and


six plots have been stopped since the Westminster Bridge attack


in June, disruption by prosecuting for low-level offences is likely


to become an increasingly vital tool.


So what of the hundreds of Britons who joined Isis


And how worried should we be about the changing threat?


I'm joined by Tasnime Akunjee - he's a criminal lawyer who has


specialised in terror cases and represented the families


of three schoolgirls from Bethnal Green who fled to Syria.


With us from Dubai is Aimon Deen, he's a former extremist who joined


Al-Qaeda before leaving the group and becoming an informant for Mi5.


What we know so far is that one of those schoolgirls is believed to be


dead and the other two unknown. Watching that report, what you think


would motivate someone considering IS's caliphate shrinking, and the


state of its presence in Syria now, what would motivate somebody to


stay? A few things, number one, their inability to leave, that would


cause them to stay. I would imagine, they would be concerned about what


would be like -- what life would be like should they return. The


prospect of coming back to a European country from which they may


have originated, knowing they may well be detected, probably being


aware that they are on the radar, from interactions with the


authorities and their families since they left, then it is not an


attractive prospect. And also, they have the problem of trying to get


across a war zone into Turkey, whose shutters have come down some time


ago in terms of the porous and is of its borders. And the short to kill


-- shoot to kill policy on the border with Turkey. There are high


hurdles for somebody to actually... I mentioned you represented the


three families of the girls from Bethnal green, we understand, the


understanding is, that one of them may be dead, it is not known, the


fate of the other two. If they are alive, could they be motivated to


come home? What could motivate them? In terms of the girl who was


reportedly killed, there was an active attempt to bring her back,


she wanted to leave, but the final straw that stopped her in gauging in


that attack was the brutal murder of a 16-year-old Austrian girl, who had


tried to leave the week before, she had been caught and beaten to death,


publicly, for that attempt, and that is what stopped the attempt to


leave. You work for Al-Qaeda between 1998 and 2006, part of the currency


which helped you come home was that you knew you had associations with


Osama bin Laden. How easy was it for you to return? At the time, it was


easy, because I was going out of Afghanistan for a medical treatment,


my intention was basically to leave, because it was in the aftermath of


the East Africa bombings. I decided that it was not a path I wanted to


continue with. During that medical leave, let's put it this way, I was


then approached by MI6 at the time, and I was persuaded to continue


working for Al-Qaeda, but passing information back to London. That is


what happened. It was an environment which allowed me to go, which


allowed me to leave. Not as paranoid as IS right now stop what we have


been talking about the state of IS's control over Raqqa, and how the


caliphate may be weakened, when you compare IS with Al-Qaeda... In terms


of what they are able to do with terrorism... Is IS is strong with or


without a physical state? Well, let us a member that between 2009, up


until 2013, IS had no territory whatsoever. They were more or less


an underground group, armed with a considerable amount of cash, and a


network of businesses from Baghdad to Mosul to Ramadi and other places,


and they were able to use this network of businesses, including


cafes and restaurants, farms, transportation companies, in order


to infiltrate the security services and the government headquarters in


Iraq will stop then they were able to use that as an intelligence


gathering network, then they took over a quarter of the country in


lightning speed, using the fact that a neighbouring country there was a


civil war, Syria. So, now, if they lose that territory, it does not


matter because they have now a considerable amount of cash, as well


as a considerable business network in neighbouring Turkey and in


Kurdish regions, in northern Iraq, as well as the fact they have a


network of sympathisers across the world. Which they never had


2009-2013. So, they are perhaps an even greater threat than they were


between 2009-2013. Is Europe more at risk, now the state is weakening, we


have called it the endgame, in Raqqa? It is advising followers and


supporters to make damage, to make terror where they are.


Since they lost the border with Turkey, and the Turkish border


became inaccessible in terms of smuggling people who are coming from


Europe and other parts of the world, it became clear that they are


telling would-be recruits, you know, potential recruits, to stay where


they are, in Europe, Australia and North America, and to wage jihad


wherever they are. The fact of the matter is that they themselves


adopted this, almost since 15 months ago, telling people to stay where


they are and wage jihad where they are. Because now, Isis is moving


from being a proto- state into a transnational terrorist


organisation. What do you think? Do you think you have seen more people,


if people are being urged to stay in Europe, do you think there is also


that motivation, however difficult it is, to return? I think being


urged to stay is just a soft power projection statement by Isis,


suggesting they have some control over the fact when they don't.


People can't leave the UK. I know, I mean supporter staying in Europe,


not going to Syria? Again, it is still a soft power issue. If any


attack happens inside of Europe, Isis will claim it is on the basis


that they made that edict, rather than the fact that, physically, they


could not, the individual couldn't move. More importantly, the reason


why Isis is more dangerous is not because it has a network, it is


because it is now a franchise. If somebody was to get news headlines,


they just have to do something that is crazy, pick up a knife or drive a


car into somebody, which actually happens quite a lot, our prisons are


filled with criminals, but to get front page on that you just say you


did it in the name of Isis. Thank you very much. Thank you for your


time. Curfews are in place and thousands


of soldiers are on the streets in cities across five of India's


northern states - this after violence erupted


after the conviction Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was found


guilty of raping two women at the headquarters


of his Dera Sacha Sauda sect, which claims to have


60 million followers. At least 23 people were killed


in clashes after the hearing The violence later spread


to the capital Delhi. The convictions have halted


the superstar lifestyle of the self-styled religious leader,


who starred in rock concerts and movies as was known


as the culture of bling. His conviction ends years of


controversy over his conduct. Earlier, I spoke to an Indian


journalist who has reported on Singh and his sect for more than a decade.


I began by asking what the situation is in India tonight. We just


received information that the death count, the mayhem that followed the


arrest of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh has resulted in the death of more


than 50 people, including in Punjab. So, the situation is pretty tense.


Tell us about Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. To you, he is a well-known


name. But very little is known about him here. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh is


the chief of a set called Dera Sacha Sauda. He is known to have too much


power in India because of his close proximity with the ruling and


opposition parties. The city from where he operates, he is virtually


the king of the city. The city is divided into two halves, one is run


by Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh and he has a following of millions. There


are accusations against him ranging from sexual exploitation, murder,


castration and other illegal activities. He was evading the law


since 2002, because of his connections with higher-ups in state


machinery and political parties. Take us back to the beginning of


this man's life. How has he managed to amass such a huge following,


millions of people adoring him? People in the upper caste of India,


they were looking for something where they can get a certain kind of


equality in the social system. The other thing was, Gurmeet Ram Rahim


Singh was known to have good connections in the ruling parties.


This am a nation of power, and realisation that, OK, there is


somebody giving us a space in society. Because of his close


connection with bureaucracy and politicians, he was able to get work


done, people had faith in him that he was somebody that was a God. That


was the time when he started exploiting his disciples. You will


be surprised to know, in the process of the investigation, we chanced


upon a witness who has given a statement, that how everyday he


wanted a new woman in his chamber, and rules for this to be provided


for him. In 2002, one of his disciples, then Prime Minister of


India, an anonymous letter stated how she was sexually exploited by


Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. Now that these accusations have come, now


that his reputation is in tatters, what will happen to his followers? I


am sure that this outburst, this will not last long. The death of


more than 28, 30 people, it has really exposed him. I know that


these supporters were completely dependent on him. The man was


getting their dirty work done, the man was like a god for them. I think


in a matter of a few days, things will be under control. The


supporters that were supporting them, whatever job they were doing,


whatever things they were doing, they have to go back to their normal


life. Platoons of driverless lorries,


thundering down our motorways. That vision came closer today


after the government gave the green light to test runs of self-driving


trucks on Britain's clogged roads. For now only some of the functions


will be performed by the machines - there will still be drivers


in each vehicle. But the announcement


raises questions about the future of travel -


and of professional drivers. Is the traditional trucker,


or the cheerful cabbie, When the world - and Newsnight -


was a little more carefree than it is now, Stephen Smith


was our Motorway Man. The poorer old lorry drivers come in


for some affectionate ribbing over the years. But we would miss him if


he wasn't there. # I like trucking!


But what's this? Replaced by a smoothie with a tablet? Look, no


hands. A computer has taken over the tedious chore of actually driving.


In this test run, the speed of the second wagon is set by the League 1.


The pair of them are linked by Wi-Fi, something called platooning.


Yellow marker 10% less fuel, that is money of our shopping bills. Less


CO2, we will be helping the planet. If we get platooning, vehicles


moving smoother together, we won't get the traffic jams. Finally,


safety, robots and sensors not making mistakes.


But handing over the wheel to a robot would surely be too much to


bear for the lorry drivers of Great Britain? We pulled into the London


Gateway services on the M1, to dunk a dipstick in the emotions of the


freighter fraternity. Think it's going to be dangerous. I don't think


it'll work. Why not? Well, it might kill somebody. I think it is a death


trap, to be honest with you. Definitely. Without somebody behind


the wheel, to grab it. I don't know, maybe it is a good idea, for the


traffic. I don't know. It could see people and stop. The trucker is the


master of his vehicle, a connection we weaken at our peril, say some.


The real difficulty comes with computers trying to respond to


unexpected circumstances, a cat running into the middle-of-the-road,


or having to take an immediate left turn because something has happened,


there is and obstruction. It is the 1% of stuff, the tail end risk.


Computers have not managed to figure all of that out. Even if you have a


leading truck that is still effectively being looked after by a


human, there is still the concern, with automated technology, that the


driver himself might be a little bit complacent. 98% of everything we


have, eat and consume, comes on the back avail or you. Brett's Supply


chain is vital to the economy. Also vital to that economy are the


drivers who drive the trucks. The job doesn't just begin and end with


driving, they also have all of these other duties to do with unloading,


form filling and so on. It's not only lorry drivers that


could be on the road to nowhere if the machines take over. Mind if I


hop in and talk about driverless cabs? They don't have the knowledge


that you have with a human, you know? Some people don't like to


talk, some people do, they like to know the history of London and the


UK. They like to know what football team is winning or losing. They want


to know where they can get a pint of milk from. Lorry drivers of Britain,


we salute you. After all those years of not nodding off at the wheel,


computers mean you cannot last get 40 winks -- can at last get 40


winks. So, to the battle of the sexes -


it's a subject many enjoy Well, researchers at the University


of British Columbia in Canada say that men may be physically


bigger and more powerful - Specifically, their study found


that the female of the species is less physically exhausted


after repetitive gruelling tasks and so naturally better


at endurance events, to such an extent that they


could soon regularly Here's one example of extreme female


endurance achievements. Quoted in much of the reporting


of this study today is that of cyclist Lael Wilcox,


who stunned her male competition last year to become the first woman


to win the 4,300 mile Trans Am She joins us now via


Skype from Alaska. she's a sports nutritionist


and performance coach who has worked She has also run ultra-marathons


and joins us from Bristol. Lael, Renee, welcome to you both.


This study, it says because of women's abilities to do frequent,


repetitive movements for longer, it shows we have more endurance. Does


this surprise you? No, not at all. The style of racing that I do is


ultra-distance. It takes about a couple of weeks to complete the


race. It is really all about recovery. In terms of recovery, is


that just being sensible, psychological, just the fact that


physically women are able to recover better? For me, it is really


physical. Day after day, I feel pretty good. Usually during these


races I sleep for four five hours, and I wake up the next day post I am


in some pain, but able to continue. I think it is pretty physical. In


your races, have you beaten men? Yes, last summer I beat the entire


field. I finished in 18 days. I caught the first placed man in the


final night. Renee, do you think the fastest woman in the world, talking


ultra marathons, could be a woman? Without a doubt. I think this study


is great in terms of bringing to light some of the things we have


already known for a while, that women are better suited to


ultra-distance events. A lot of that seems to be related to hormonal and


biochemical processes in our body. I think it is great that we are


getting more investigations into this particular area. How do you


explain, Renee, this statistic, which amazed us in the office. Paula


Radcliffe's a world marathon time is two hours 15.25, set in the London


Marathon. It is 30 minutes faster than the women's record in the


mid-70s. If you look at the similar data over men's Times, the


improvement is only five minutes. One of the things we need more


research into, one of the things that is clear is that female


physiology is to these events. The studies that have been done, it's


shown that women fare better in events that are 26.2 miles and


above. I think a lot of that is related to the fact that we tend to


burn fat a lot better than men. So, we naturally have a higher reserve.


We have a bigger tank of fat stores, because women generally do have. On


top of that, we have a better ability to use that for fuel.


Particularly in these ultra events, we know that at some point you are


going to run out of your carbohydrate stores. Even fold


glycogen stores only last 60 to 90 minutes. You will need topping up.


But even that will not be enough. Having the better efficiency of


using fat for fuel is one of the critical things that makes us so


good at running these longer events. Lael, the scientific evidence seems


to point that women could have the upper hand when it comes to these


ultra marathons, these longer events. Do you think there are any


other sports where the barriers could be broken down, or the


competitive edge could be broken down? I think there is definitely


room for improvement in all sports for women. There is definitely a lot


less encouragement. We are seeing a change, but there is still a lot of


room for that to build. Speaking about results changing so


dramatically from the 70s, there were very few women competing in the


marathon in the 70s. Many more now, but I still feel like its many fewer


than men competing. So, that will change and we will see improved


results. Renee similar question, when we look at sports like


football, where short bursts of energy are needed, or tennis, do


women compare with men? Absolutely. I think a lot of the athletes I work


with, there is no difference between men and women in how they train.


They train the same, they put the same effort in, they get the same


sports science support. I think football is an interesting one,


because it is now emerging and the women's squads are getting a lot


more support now. Prior to the last few years, this wasn't something


that was actually very clear. I think with the right wraparound and


the right direction, yes, we can definitely see a huge improvement in


women making their ground. Renee, Lael, thank you very much for your


time this evening. That's almost it for tonight,


but before we go, you might Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson


was in Libya this week, where he was welcomed by a Libyan


military band giving a tuneful At least, we think it's


the national anthem.


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