James Foley beheading: Boris Johnson says anyone returning from Iraq and Syria should be arrested

The Mayor of London called for increased legal powers against Isis suspects

Anyone attempting to return to the UK from visiting Iraq or Syria “without a good reason” should be classified as a potential terrorist and arrested, Boris Johnson has said.

The Mayor of London, who will be standing as a Tory MP next year, wants the law to be reversed so there is a “rebuttable presumption” of guilt until people are proved innocent.

“Do nothing now, and the tide of terror will eventually lap at our own front door,” he wrote in the Telegraph.

As many as 500 British citizens are believed to be fighting for the Islamic State (Isis) and other terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria, including a former London rapper then known as L Jinny, who is believed to be one of many UK-born terrorists under investigation for the murder of James Foley.

The beheading of the American journalist, recorded in a gruesome propaganda video, appears to have been by a British militant with a London accent nicknamed “jihadi John”, who authorities are close to identifying.

Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary pictured here in a YouTube video showcasing his rapping Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, pictured here in a YouTube video showcasing his rapping as L Jinny, is one of many British suspects believed to be under investigation Writing in his Telegraph column, Mr Johnson said: "I suspect most of us don’t give a monkey’s what happens to this prat in heaven, whether he meets virgins or raisins – we just want someone to come along with a bunker-buster and effect an introduction as fast as possible."

He argued more needs to be done to prevent foreign extremists travelling to Iraq and Syria, including Turkey shutting the border.

Read more: Britain close to identifying 'jihadi John'
We share blame for creating 'jihad generation', says Muslim strategist
London rapper turned jihadist believed to be under investigation for James Foley murder

“We need to make it crystal clear that you will be arrested if you go out to Syria or Iraq without a good reason,” he wrote.

“At present the police are finding it very difficult to stop people from simply flying out via Germany, crossing the border, doing their ghastly jihadi tourism, and coming back.

“The police can and do interview the returnees, but it is hard to press charges without evidence.

“The law needs a swift and minor change so that there is a ‘rebuttable presumption’ that all those visiting war areas without notifying the authorities have done so for a terrorist purpose.”

Video: British Isis members feature in recruitment video

The Mayor reflected concerns aired by the Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, that if Isis is taken down, its foreign militants will flee back to their countries of birth and continue their jihad at home.

He urged for the return of Tony Blair’s control orders, scrapped by the Coalition, which could keep terror suspects in their homes without access to phones or the internet.

If known militants fighting with extremist groups choose not to return, he called for the removal of their British citizenship.

The “Isil wackos” – as Mr Johnson dubbed them – control an area the size of the UK across Syria and Iraq, including cities, industry, oil reserves and a population of around six million people.


Their reportedly well-funded military capability sent the Iraqi army fleeing in retreat as Isis went on a bloody rampage through the country earlier this year and countless civilians have died in the Sunni group’s vicious persecution of Shias, Yazidis, Christians and other minorities.

Still scarred by the British involvement in the previous Iraq and Afghanistan war, David Cameron has repeatedly vowed not to put “British boots on the ground”, despite mounting outrage about Isis atrocities and its potential power if its dream caliphate is established.

The Government has not yet joined the US in launching air strikes against militants, instead sending humanitarian aid, working with the Iraqi Government and international security services.

Mr Johnson appeared to support increased intervention in his Telegraph article, saying Isis territory needed to be “closed down now”, before becoming a “giant training ground for terrorists”.

“No option looks very appealing, to put it mildly; and yet doing nothing is surely the worst of all,” he wrote.

“If we let Isil (Isis) get their way, then we will be acquiescing, first, in a gigantic and violent change in international borders…we will be allowing a new and hideous regime to be born.”

Mr Hammond has previously said “significant powers” were already available to deal with people planning to travel to Syria or Iraq to fight including withdrawing passports, monitoring them overseas and arresting them on their return.

“I don’t think this video changes anything,” he told Radio 4. “It just heightens awareness of a situation that is very grave and that we’ve been working on for many months.”

James Brokenshire, the minister for immigration and security, said the Government already has the power to remove citizenship under the Immigration Act and control orders had been ineffective because of legal challenges.

“People seeking to travel to engage in terrorist activity in Syria or Iraq should be in no doubt we will take the strongest possible action to protect our national security, including prosecuting those who break the law," he added.

“The police, security services and Border Force are actively working to identify, detect and disrupt terrorist threats, including from British fighters attempting to return to the UK."

Read more: Robert Fisk: 'Isis's social media skill is no reason for US to start talking of apocalypse'
US hostage Theo Curtis freed by Jabhat Al-Nusrah after two years' captivity
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
ebooksNow available in paperback
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths
Life and Style
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
Amazon misled consumers about subscription fees, the ASA has ruled
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn