Iraq crisis: 'Up to 450' British fighters have joined Isis militants and are planning UK attack, spies say

Kurdish intelligence chief says  'up to 450' British fighters number among ranks of Sunni militants

Dominic Harris
Thursday 19 June 2014 09:31 BST
Members of the Kurdish security forces in northern Iraq, as a Kurdish intelligence chief warned that 'up to 450' British nationals are now fighting with Isis
Members of the Kurdish security forces in northern Iraq, as a Kurdish intelligence chief warned that 'up to 450' British nationals are now fighting with Isis (Reuters)

Up to 450 British nationals have joined the ranks of an extremist Islamist militant group in Iraq and could attack the UK, a Kurdish intelligence chief has claimed.

Lahoor Talabani, director of counter terrorism for the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), told Sky News that the offensive in the north of the country by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) should not be viewed as an attack only on the Iraqi government.

His comments echo those of Prime Minister David Cameron, who yesterday warned that Isis was plotting terror attacks on the UK and that militants returning from fighting in Iraq and neighbouring Syria now represent a greater threat than those from Afghanistan.

Mr Talabani said: “According to the intelligence we have, just Britain alone have around 400 to 450 known people fighting amongst the ranks of Isis.”

He added that Isis leader Abu Bakr el Baghdadi would use them to attack the UK if they survived the fighting, and the situation would get worse for the West if it does not intervene. He called for air strikes, ammunition and weaponry from the West.

The US is considering formal requests from Iraqi leaders to launch air strikes against militant positions, possibly using drones.

President Barack Obama indicated today that he does not need authorisation from Congress to take any steps over action in Iraq, top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell said.

While Mr Obama has not fully ruled out the possibility of launching air strikes, such action is not imminent, officials said, in part because intelligence agencies have been unable to identify clear targets on the ground.

US vice president Joe Biden also discussed possible additional measures that the US could assist Iraqi forces.

Meanwhile, social media sites are reportedly being used to give would-be British jihadists travel advice to recruit them to fight in Iraq and Syria.

Extremists already in the countries are using media such as Twitter and the anonymous question and answer website to pass on information about visas, travel money and how to avoid rousing suspicion and evade security to those wanting to join them, the Daily Mail reported.

Around 150 Australians are also thought to be fighting with militants in Syria and Iraq, raising fears of a terrorist threat if they return home, leading to the cancellation of passports on the advice of security agencies.

Yesterday Mr Cameron said Britain could not afford to see the creation of an “extreme Islamist regime” in the middle of Iraq.

He told MPs at Prime Minister's questions: “I disagree with those people who those people who think this is nothing to do with us and if they want to have have some sort of extreme Islamist regime in the middle of Iraq, that won't affect us. It will.

“The people in that regime - as well as trying to take territory - are also planning to attack us here at home in the United Kingdom.

“So the right answer is to be long-term, hard-headed, patient and intelligent with the interventions that we make.”

Isis overran Iraq's second city, Mosul, last week, and has also launched an assault on the country's biggest oil refinery in Baiji, north of Baghdad.

British oil giant BP has reportedly evacuated non-essential workers out of its Rumaila field in the south of the country.


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