UK & World News

  • 20 August 2014, 13:18

British IS Militants 'Not Taking Back Seat'

An expert in radicalisation has warned that Britons are at the forefront of the Islamic State conflict in Iraq and Syria and could be called upon to carry out attacks in the UK.

Shiraz Maher, a senior researcher at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, said there was evidence of British involvement in several attacks in Syria.

Some 400 Britons are thought to be involved in the Islamic State (IS) conflict. Others are thought to have come from the US, Australia and France among others.

Mr Maher told Sky News: "It's very clear that the Brits who have gone out there don't intend to take a back seat and they haven't done at any point.

"They are very much at the forefront of this conflict.

"Because of the dramatic, the appalling nature of what has taken place, it has publicised what some of the British fighters out there are doing to a much wider and broader audience."

Mr Maher said a British suicide bomber targeted Aleppo prison in Syria in 2013 and there were reports of British fighters executing prisoners of war in Syria in early 2014.

A Crawley father-of-three Abdul Waheed Majeed, 41, became the first Briton suspected of staging a suicide bomb attack when he attacked the jail in Aleppo in February.

In May, 18-year-old Abdullah Deghayes, from Brighton, was killed while fighting in Syria alongside his two brothers Jafar and Amer.

In June, Cardiff students Nasser Muthana and Reyaad Khan - both 20 - appeared alongside Abdul Raqib Amin, from Aberdeen, in an IS recruitment video urging Westerners to join the fighting.

Ahmed Muthana said he has now disowned his two sons Nasser and Aseel after they joined IS.

In a message to others thinking of joining the group, he said: "Don't go they are a fake. The prophet didn't tell anyone to kill people."

Amin, 26, was reportedly killed in a gun battle near Ramadi in July.

And earlier this month, 25-year-old former Primark supervisor Muhammad Hamidur Rahman, from Portsmouth, was reportedly killed while fighting for IS in Syria.

Initially, many people went out to Syria and Iraq to help alleviate human suffering, but attitudes have hardened, Mr Maher said.

"Over time what you have seen is a hardening of attitudes, a desire not to go and help people but to build an Islamic state to engage in this millenarian project and that has motivated scores of people to go out there," Mr Maher said.

"They are seeing their friends doing it, so when they see a certain number of people doing it that in their minds makes what is quite a remarkable thing - to give up your life, to go out there and join these groups - it makes it real, tangible and feasible."

The beheading of US journalist James Foley is the first time IS has used a "directly confrontational approach" to the Western world, he said.

IS fighters could later be used to carry out attacks in their native countries if the group's aim of establishing and Islamic caliphate in Iraq and Syria is prevented.

Mr Maher added: "A lot of the militants who are out there fighting for IS traditionally and largely say they don't intend to return, they want to say out in Syria and Iraq, live out there lives there and ultimately die there.

"If that intensifies then of course its feasible that they may look to some of the British fighters in their ranks and try to look at sending some of them back to do attacks here."

Ajmal Masroor, an imam in north London, told Sky News a consistent approach towards Islam was needed to curb extremism.

Asked if he though IS fighters were terrorist, he said: "I think Muslims across the globe would say... 'not in our name'.

"These people have hjiacked and given a very bad name to Islam and destroyed the reputation of the Muslim community across the globe.

"What we have to do is not give these nutters, these terrorists, these extremists any [more] credence than then have already got."

Advertisement