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UK: Dangerous contradiction towards returning jihadists

There is a dangerous contradiction in Britain's policies regarding jihadists, but little public debate on the matter. The serious question of returning ISIS fighters have received virtually no scrutiny, says one British commentator.

Published: December 8, 2017, 10:57 am

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    According to Micheal Heaver, of the 850 estimated ISIS supporters who have gone from Britain to Syria or Iraq, half or some 425 are said to have returned.

    “To put this into perspective, whilst over 1 900 have gone from France to support the Islamic State, far less, 271, have been allowed to return,” says Heaver.

    Germany has registered an estimated 915 jihadists leaving the country to join the side of the now largely crushed Islamic State’s positions in Syria and Iraq. Around 300 have returned.

    This means that Britain has seen fewer jihadists leave this country to go and support Islamic State abroad, but more have allowed back into the country.

    “As it stands, the UK now has more returning ISIS jihadis in our country than any other in Europe,” Heaver said.

    “We know this thanks to a report authored by Richard Barrett, a former Director of counter-terrorism at MI6, who is now at the Global Strategy Network. It is his report, ‘Beyond the Caliphate: Foreign Fighters and the Threat of Returnees’, that brings all of the numbers together in one place.

    “The report makes an obvious judgement call: ‘While returning Foreign Fighters have not as yet added significantly to the threat of terrorism around the world, the number of attacks inspired or directed by the Islamic State continues to rise. All returnees, whatever their reason for going home, will continue to pose some degree of risk.’

    “To have a handful of battle-hardened jihadis come back to Britain would be one thing. An argument could be made that some, in truly exceptional cases, could be genuinely turned and could be willing to hand over critical information that could help crush ISIS.

    “But that isn’t what’s happened here. Instead hundreds and hundreds of jihadists who hate Britain’s way of life to such a degree that they were willing to risk their lives to go and support a bunch of sadistic religious fundamentalists who abuse children, rape women and torture innocent people to death on an industrial scale have, for some reason, been allowed back into the country.”

    It is not known how many jihadis have been prosecuted, and authorities are not able to give a clear indication.

    MI5 have revealed that during the last 12 months alone, 9 Islamist plots have been stopped, while the number of terrorism-related arrests has surged to 400 in one year, a record.

    Only one of the five jihadis who had carried out the attacks on London Bridge, at Westminster and Manchester was under active investigation. Two had been previously investigated and the other two were not even under surveillance.

    By allowing more than 400 ISIS jihadis back into the country, Heaver says the terror risk has dramatically increased.

    Beyond the obvious danger, security service will presumably have to track these dedicated ISIS supporters, wasting valuable resources.

    Few politicians have addressed the issue, apart from Rory Stewart. Stewart briefly served as an infantry officer as well as a former diplomat.

    As a Deputy-Governor for two provinces in southern Iraq following Britain’s intervention, the MP has some experience of the war theatre.

    Stewart currently serves as a Minister of State for the government. “I’m afraid we have to be serious about the fact these people (British citizens fighting for ISIS abroad) are a serious danger to us, and unfortunately the only way of dealing with them will be, in almost every case, to kill them.”

    The new Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, has a similar point of view. He insists that not only should terrorists not be allowed back into the country, but that “a dead terrorist can’t cause any harm to Britain”.

    Whilst Theresa May’s government has allowed more returning jihadis back into the country than any other country in Europe, government Ministers are insisting that they are so dangerous that they should be killed.

    But May has never been asked directly how this had been allowed to happen, Heaver says. “Have the government allowed these terrorists back in – or is it the sheer incompetence of pathetically weak borders that is now putting the British public at such staggering risk?”

    He concluded: “As politicians continue to duck the issue and the threat continues to grow, there is a fatal contradiction at the heart of our government. Our political leaders are insisting jihadi terrorists should be killed. Yet so many have been allowed to return.”

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