200 Britons fighting for Taliban face arrest, say police

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The Independent Online

Up to 200 British Muslims who fought for the Taliban regime in Afghanistan face immediate arrest and prosecution on their return to the UK, security sources said on Monday.

Special Branch detectives and immigration officers at ports and airports intend to detain any British supporters of al-Qa'ida as soon as they set foot in Britain. They could be prosecuted under anti-terrorism laws that ban membership of Osama bin Laden's network and arms training for the purpose of terrorism. Some could even be prosecuted for treason, although lawyers believe it would be very difficult to secure a conviction.

A senior security source said there are believed to be several hundred British nationals in Afghanistan and Pakistan working for al-Qa'ida and the Taliban. Other sources put the figure at less than 100.

The clampdown on British citizens fighting for the Taliban comes after reports that some Islamic militants had flown out to help fight anti-Taliban forces. A security source said yesterday: "There is a whole framework of legislation that we could use to deal with these people – treason would be at the extreme end of the scale."

Intelligence agencies, including MI6, Special Branch, and the Metropolitan Police Anti-Terrorist Branch, have the names of some British passport-holders suspected of fighting for the Taliban but further details are expected to emerge as prisoners in Afghanistan are questioned.