4 neo-Nazi group members in British army arrested on terror charges

Four members of a banned neo-Nazi group arrested on suspicion of terrorism serve in the U.K.'s armed forces, the British Ministry of Defence said Tuesday.

Men are alleged members of National Action, a organization banned in U.K. and suspected in death of MP Jo Cox

The men are alleged members of the neo-Nazi group National Action, an organization that is outlawed in Britain. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Four serving members of the army were arrested under the Terrorism Act on suspicion of being members of a banned far-right group, British defence officials and police said Tuesday.

The West Midlands Counterterrorism Unit said officers had arrested four people in central England alleged to be members of the neo-Nazi group National Action.

The group is banned in the U.K., and an official list of banned groups describes it as "virulently racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic."

The force said the men were suspected of "being concerned in the commission, preparation and instigation" of terrorism acts. They were detained as part of a "pre-planned and intelligence-led" operation and there was "no threat to the public's safety." No other details were immediately available.

Britain's Ministry of Defence confirmed that the four men are serving members of the army.

"We can confirm that a number of serving members of the army have been arrested under the Terrorism Act for being associated with a proscribed far-right group," the army said in a statement.

The men, aged 22 to 32, were held at a police station. Several properties were raided in connection with the arrests.

The BBC reported that the men are a 22-year-old from Birmingham, a 32-year-old from Powys, a 24-year-old from Ipswich and a 24-year-old from Northampton.

Linked to Jo Cox slaying

National Action was established in 2013 and has been linked to the murder of Labour lawmaker Jo Cox in 2016. The brutal murder, a week before Britain's referendum on European Union membership, shocked the country.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd outlawed the group after an assessment that it was "concerned in terrorism" ahead of the trial of right-wing extremist Thomas Mair, who was convicted and sentenced to life in Cox's murder. A judge said Mair carried out the murder to advance a political cause "of violent white supremacism associated with Nazism."

The Home Office said that at the time, National Action posted tweets lauding Mair's actions.

In a list of banned groups, the Home Office said the group frequently distributed "extremely violent imagery and language" on social media and aimed its propaganda at recruiting young people. It added that the group "seeks to divide society by implicitly endorsing violence against ethnic minorities and perceived 'race traitors."'

Membership or inviting support for National Action is a criminal offence that carries a sentence of up to 10 years.