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.