Iraq crisis: Isis ‘has recruited at least 1,500 Britons’ to fight abroad, warns Birmingham MP
Khalid Mahmood said numbers of fighters who will come back to UK radicalised ‘certainly more than we are saying at the moment’
At least 1,500 British nationals are likely to have been recruited by extremists to fight in Iraq and Syria, a Birmingham MP has warned.
Labour’s Khalid Mahmood said that with the increased radicalisation of young British Muslims in the past two years, the number who “will come back” to launch attacks in the UK was “certainly more than we are saying at the moment”.
Previously , the Foreign Secretary William Hague has claimed that around 400 young British nationals have gone to the Middle East to join the fighting.
And Mr Mahmood’s estimate is also far higher than the 500 referred to by the anti-terror chief Sir Peter Fahy. Yesterday, the former head of counter-terrorism at MI6 Richard Barrett said up to 300 fighters may have come back to the UK already.
Speaking in an interview with Sky News, the MP for Perry Barr said: “I imagine 1,500 certainly would be the lower end. If you look across the whole of the country, there's been a number of people going across.
“Originally you had the British Syrians settled here who wanted to go back and play a part, then you had the Kurdish community, then almost two years ago you had the young British Muslim community going across - so if you add all that up you've got serious figures that we need to look at.
“Those will come back - certainly more than we are saying at the moment - and we do need to look at that.”
Mr Mahmood’s warning came as senior British security experts warned that the UK could be suffering from the repercussions of the Syrian and Iraqi conflicts for “many years” to come.
Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner and head of specialist operations, said Britain would feel the long-term consequences of the conflict, and young British Muslims who have travelled to fight in the war-torn country might commit violence when they returned.
Liam Fox, the former Defence Secretary, described the problem of fighters returning from the region as a “real worry”, and told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that the government needed to reassess the funding and powers given to the security services with this threat in mind.
Meanwhile, a Muslim leader in Wales has warned that the publicity given to a video featuring two young men from Cardiff urging others to fight in Syria could add to the numbers already recruited.
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Sheikh Zane Abdo, imam of the South Wales Islamic Centre said a “platform” should not have been given to the recruitment video for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) which includes 20-year-olds Nasser Muthana and Reyaad Khan. Nasser's younger brother, Aseel, 17, is also thought to have travelled to Syria.
“I guarantee that many young people who are very susceptible to this type of message will have watched that video and maybe have been encouraged to now go and follow in the footsteps of Nasser and his brother, which is a real problem, the fact that a platform has been given to this video that really shouldn't have been given,” Sheikh Abdo told BBC Breakfast.
Khan's mother, who has not been identified, appealed to her only son to come home in a tearful interview with Sky News. She said the young men had been “brainwashed into thinking they are going to help people”.
Ahmed Muthana, father of Nasser and Aseel, also spoke of his devastation after seeing Nasser on the video.
The video entitled There's No Life Without Jihad features three men with distinctly English accents, along with two Australians, holding guns and surrounded by greenery as they implore others to join them (YouTube) The 57-year-old retired electrical engineer told The Guardian that he felt as if a bomb had hit his Cardiff home when he saw the video.
“I was shocked, I was sad, I cried. My wife collapsed, It feels as if the ground under my feet has disappeared,” he said.
“This is my country. I came here aged 13 years old from Aden when I was orphaned,” he added.
“It is his country. He was born here in the hospital down the road. He has been educated here. He has betrayed Great Britain.”
Haras Rafiq, from the anti-extremist think tank the Quilliam Foundation, told Good Morning Britain that the strongest influence on young men who end up going out to the region was the internet.
“The strategies this Government have used actually haven't worked, there's a focus on just countering the violent extremists and forgetting about preventing people from getting there in the first place,” he said.
“Just as we have passionate people who are putting these jihad videos on, we have passionate people to counter and we need to empower those people.”
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