Number of Muslim radicals growing - Security Police chief

The number of people with radical tendencies in Latvia is growing each year, Security Police chief Normunds Mežviets told Latvian Television Monday. 

Even though Latvia has almost no far-left and very few far-right extremists, Latvia's Muslim community, small as it may be, has not gone unaffected.

"Each year we are seeing more and more people that we view as having radical tendencies [in the Muslim community]," said Mežviets.

He said that the growth of the Muslim community contributes to the increasing numbers of radicals.

According to Mežviets, young men and women alike are among the people interested in extremist ideas. 

The Security Police has information about several people who have expressed a desire to join terrorist organizations and even tried going to the hot spots, without any success however.

Judging from Mežviets' remarks it can be concluded that some people have failed to reach the hotspots on their own and returned, but the attempts of some others have been thwarted in some unspecified way by the Security Police. 

Mežviets said there's a possibility that members of the Islamic community who voice soft-spoken views have radicalized. He did not reveal the number of people that could be hiding in plain sight. 

Mežviets revealed that Oļegs Petrovs, former head of the Islamic Cultural Center who recently grabbed headlines a after a video surfaced with him encouraging Jihad and praising terrorists, had been under the watch of the Security Police for more than ten years.

Security Police had predicted, during the time that Petrovs studied in Saudi Arabia, that he could [negatively] influence the Muslim community upon returning.

Last year Petrovs' views were examined as he suggested, after the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks that instead of being put to death the cartoonists apparently insulting Islam should still have undergone punishment, albeit of a less severe degree - like having their fingers broken.

Latvia is considering a ban on wearing face covering clothes in public. The initiative is related to increasing asylum seeker numbers, however it would in effect extend to clothing like ski masks as well. 

Mežviets in the interview said that similar bans in other countries have contributed to further radicalization and extremism in the Muslim community. 

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