The British government has officially banned Atomwaffen Division and its successor organization, National Socialist Order (NSO), as criminal terrorist groups, meaning membership in either in the U.K. now carries a potential 10-year prison sentence.
On Monday, Home Secretary Priti Pratel issued a motion for Parliament to “proscribe” Atomwaffen Division—a mostly U.S. based neo-Nazi terror group that disbanded last year and was connected to five stateside murders—as an “outlaw” group. Today, it was ratified by Parliament.
“Vile and racist white supremacist groups like this exist to spread hate, sow division and advocate the use of violence to further their sick ideologies,” Patel said in a statement.
In response to the ban, a leader within the NSO who previously headed an Atomwaffen cell told VICE World News that he wasn’t shocked by the criminal proscription of the group, and questioned why the disbanded organization was also named.
“We’re not at all surprised over it. The U.K. government consistently falls all over itself to ban any dissidents that have a real public image,” he said, claiming that the group is exclusively American. “NSO’s program even states that we are a U.S.-only organization, the only reason for them to ban us is to virtue signal.”
Labour MP Bambos Charalambous, shadow minister for the Home Office, which oversees national policing, questioned why it had taken so long for the government to recognize the threat of Atomwaffen and urged it to list other far-right groups operating in the U.K. as terrorist organizations.
“Whilst we support the proscription of the Nazi terror group Atomwaffen Division,” he tweeted today after Parliament confirmed the ban, “the Government needs to act quicker in banning other far right terror organisations who are still peddling fascist ideas and encouraging racial divisions and violence in our communities.”
The British government previously designated both Feuerkrieg Division and Sonnenkrieg Division—groups adjacent and similar to Atomwaffen—as terrorist entities.
VICE World News first broke the news in March 2020 that Atomwaffen had disbanded just as it was on the cusp of being declared a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department. In the last year, several members and a former leader have faced FBI crackdowns and lengthy prison sentences for terrorism-related crimes in the U.S. The group re-emerged as the National Socialist Order in the summer of 2020, vowing to learn from the mistakes of Atomwaffen.
At the time, the same leader of NSO said the group planned to be more covert and less irresponsible in talking about their activities online, something that initially helped law enforcement build cases against Atomwaffen.
“We're going to keep people from, if they do anything illegal—which we don't encourage or discourage—we're going to keep them from talking about it online,” he told VICE World News in July 2020.
First formed on the neo-Nazi forum IronMarch in 2015, Atomwaffen—named for the German word for nuclear weapons, promoted accelerationism, a particularly violent political ideology adopted by the far right that calls for terror attacks to hasten the collapse of the U.S. government. Its commitment to the racist 1980s insurgency manual Siege, a much-beloved work among neo-Nazis, helped popularize the work that has inspired the creation of several other terror groups such as the Base, a group that has also faced a continuing FBI crackdown.