A British doctor has appeared in court, charged with his role in the kidnap and injury of two photojournalists, one of them British, in Syria earlier this year.
Westminster Magistrates Court heard how Shajul Islam, 26, from Stratford, east London has a first class degree in biochemistry, and trained to be a doctor at St Bartholomew’s, and a University of London hospital.
He was arrested last week at Heathrow Airport when he arrived on a flight from Egypt with his wife, who is also 26, and their one year old child.
John Cantlie and Jeroen Oerlemans crossed the border into Syria from Turkey at Bab al-Hawa, in the north of the country, on July 19th. Despite the aid of a guide, the pair became disoriented and entered a camp, expecting it to be occupied by the Free Syrian Army, the main armed opposition group in the country. Instead they encountered, they have claimed, up to 40 Jihadists, many of whom were Chechens, and, they estimate, up to 15 British nationals, one of whom is alleged to have been Shajul Islam.
According to Mr Cantlie, he and Mr Oerlemans were blindfolded and restrained, and at one point both were shot as they tried to escape. Both men were recaptured, and given medical treatment by Mr Islam.
Mr Islam wore a dark jacket, and dark shirt and tie, and spoke only to confirm his name. His bail application was refused and he will appear again at the Old Bailey on November 2nd, charged with the unlawful and injurious imprisonment of the two men.
The group are alleged to be one of a number of Jihadi groups seeking to overturn President Al-Assad’s government and establish Sharia law in the country. Among the British nationals is believed to be one of the group’s senior figures, who is still at large and being actively sought by British security services. They are also investigating claims made by Mr Cantlie concerning the large number of British nationals at the camp in northern Syria.
Previously, British intelligence services have claimed that up to 100 Britons have travelled to Syria to fight in rebel forces or Jihadi units opposed to the al-Assad regime.