UK Syria fighters pose long-term threat – Met officer – BBC News

Still from unverified Isis video

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This footage purports to show Reyaad Khan (c) Nasser Muthana (r) from Wales

UK police will have to deal with the threat of British fighters returning from Syria for “many years”, a top Scotland Yard officer has told the BBC.

Met Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick said the conflict represented a “long-term” terrorist threat.

She said young British Muslims might commit violence on their return.

Her comments came after an apparent internet recruitment video for jihadists in Syria and Iraq featured several Britons.

The film was posted by internet accounts linked to militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis), which has a presence in Syria and is engaged in fierce fighting with Iraqi government forces.

Aseel Muthana Aseel Muthana, 17, is also said to have travelled to Syria

The BBC understands one of the men in the video is Reyaad Khan, 20, from Cardiff.

It comes after the father of aspiring medical student Nasser Muthana, also 20 and from Cardiff, spoke of his shock at seeing his son in the video.

He said his younger son, Aseel, 17, had also travelled to the country in February, several months after Nasser left.

‘Disrupt plots’

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend, Ms Dick – who is currently head of specialist operations including counter terrorism at the Met – warned Britain would face “the consequences” of the conflict in Syria for “many years to come”.

“We are really alert to the fact that people may come back and they may have military training,” she said.

“They may seek – although it’s very difficult – to smuggle weaponry here and they may seek to cause violence or to encourage others to cause violence.

Nasser MuthanaNasser Muthana’s family said they were “heartbroken”

“So a huge part of our effort is about trying to work out who is coming back and intercept them at the port, and of course if we discover that there are plots being planned either from abroad, for example from Syria, or within the UK, we will do everything we can to disrupt that plot, keep the public safe and bring people to justice.”

She said until recently police believed around 460 Britons had gone to fight in Syria, but said the figure could now be around 500.

“It’s very difficult to know absolutely who has travelled or where they currently are,” Ms Dick said. “I don’t think anybody will ever have an absolutely definitive number.”

Former MI6 director of global counter-terrorism Richard Barrett told Sky News’s Murnaghan programme that as many as 300 radicalised young men had already returned to the UK.

Mr Barrett said it was an “absolute nightmare” for security agencies because they do not have the resources to track all of them.

Some are known “but others are probably completely unknown and maybe even their return is unknown and will only come to light later”, he said.

Liam Fox

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Ex-defence secretary Liam Fox: “It’s a problem that’s going to be with us for a long time”

More than 50 people have been arrested in the UK since 2013 for alleged Syria-related offences.

It comes as cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith said the UK could provide logistical support for the US should it launch strikes against insurgents in Iraq.

“We have to do what we can to support the Americans,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Pienaar’s Politics.

“The government has said it’s not going to be doing any airstrikes or putting soldiers into Iraq but I think there are lots of other things we can do to help support them – make sure they get the right spare parts and support in maintaining those kind of aircraft and equipment and also support the Americans where they need it in terms of supply, et cetera.”

Asked if British bases could be used, the work and pensions secretary said an “awful lot of Iraq” was not being run by Isis.

But he added: “The government’s position has been quite clearly that we will do what we can to support what the Americans want to do in terms of this.”

Earlier, former Defence Secretary Liam Fox said: “The West is seen as a single entity. There are those who say ‘If we don’t get involved, if we hunker down, then we’ll be fine, there’ll be no backlash’.

“That is utterly wrong because the jihadists don’t hate us because of what we do, they hate us because of who we are.”

Undated photo showing members of the the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) in Raqqa (14 January 2014)Islamist group Isis has a presence in Syria and is engaged in fierce fighting in Iraq

Mr Fox said the question had to be asked whether the security services had adequate resources for an increased threat.

He said there should be more surveillance, more manpower and more money, if required.

“At heart it’s an ideological battle. We have to realise we have to win the ideological battle as well,” he added.


Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis)

Fighters belonging to Sunni-led militant group ISIS

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Isis fighters have been pushing towards Iraq’s capital, Baghdad

Isis grew out of an al-Qaeda-linked organisation in Iraq

  • Estimated 10,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria
  • Joined in its offensives by other Sunni militant groups, including Saddam-era officers and soldiers, and disaffected Sunni tribal fighters
  • Exploits standoff between Iraqi government and the minority Sunni Arab community, which complains that Shia Prime Minister Nouri Maliki is monopolising power
  • Led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, an obscure figure regarded as a battlefield commander and tactician


‘Potentially vulnerable’

Alyas Karmani, an imam and independent city councillor in Bradford, said the government should take some responsibility for the issue.

He said: “We are not reaching this group of young people who are potentially vulnerable to this radicalisation. And one of the reasons is because a lot of agencies that were providing that counter messaging about two or three years ago had their funding cut by the government.”

South Wales Police said they were “increasingly concerned” about the number of young people travelling to Syria, but the issue was not unique to Cardiff or Wales.

“The advice is to avoid all travel to Syria – anyone who does travel is putting themselves in considerable danger,” they said, warning those who engaged in terror-related activities would be prosecuted.

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UK Syria fighters pose long-term threat – Met officer – BBC News

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