Growing fears over Britons radicalised in Syrian conflict

 

Crime Correspondent

Britons travelling to Syria with amateur aid convoys are at threat of becoming radicalised by terrorist groups and should stay at home, a Government minister has warned.

The return to Britain of armed, trained and dangerous fighters from conflict in the Middle Eastern state will be a significant threat for the foreseeable future, said James Brokenshire, the Home Office minister responsible for security. Senior officials have highlighted the threat from groups travelling to Syria determined to fight and those who go with the intention of taking humanitarian aid but become radicalised while they are there.

It follows the case of the suicide bomber Abdul Waheed Majeed, 41, who is believed to have driven a lorry filled with explosives into a prison in Aleppo earlier this month in an attempt to release hundreds of prisoners. He entered the country with an aid convoy after his mosque in Crawley had raised tens of thousands of pounds to help refugees, and made the journey in a fleet of old ambulances.

A report in The Sunday Times on Sunday cited senior security officials as saying that 250 jihadists had returned to Britain after training and fighting in Syria, described as the world’s No 1 jihadist destination. Officials have said that Britons in the “low hundreds” have travelled to Syria to join up to 2,000 European-based fighters where al-Qa’ida-linked groups, Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant are active.

Police and security services are monitoring passengers on flights in and out of the region and senior police have warned that people are at threat of arrest on their return. In January, 16 people were arrested for suspected terror offences linked to Syria. That number represents two-thirds of the total for the whole of 2013.

“The situation on the ground is such that people who might think that they’re going out for humanitarian purposes may get involved in situations that they simply had not contemplated,” Mr Brokenshire said on Sunday. “People may become involved in those terrorist organisations who are killing civilians, they may be radicalised when they are out there. It’s an extremely fluid picture.”

The head of Scotland Yard, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, said last week that there were concerns about a “surge of returns” of British fighters but said the timing could not be predicted. A major return is expected when one side gains sway in the conflict, which has left some 140,000 people dead, according to one rights group.

“Our biggest worry… is when they return they are radicalised, they may have military skills and they may have a network of people that allows them to get weapons,” said Sir Bernard.

Mr Brokenshire told the BBC that Britons motivated to help the plight of the Syrians should do it in the “right way” which was by “providing the financial support to recognised organisations that are able to deliver”.

However, following the failure of the latest peace talks, the Government said the UN had to respond urgently to address the humanitarian suffering in the country.

News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
video
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Extras
indybest
News
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
education
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
sport
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform