Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond calls the murder of US journalist James Foley by a suspected Briton an “utter betrayal”, but expects the struggle against extremism to last “a generation”.
Mr Hammond pledged more military support to Kurdish fighters opposing Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq, and said the battle against “the enduring threat from Syria and Iraq” was likely to last a generation.
But he reiterated that Britain would not be putting “boots on the ground” for a military operation as the government tries to tackle the IS threat, whose members “are turning a swathe of Iraq and Syria into a terrorist state as a base for launching attacks on the West”.
“Unless they are stopped, sooner or later they will seek to strike us on British soil,” he added.
We cannot pretend the barbarism is none of our business when so many British citizens are being drawn in Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper
It is estimated that more than 500 British jihadists have travelled to Syria or Iraq in the past few years, Mr Hammond said.
British intelligence services said they were “close” to identifying the man, apparently English, who carried out the beheading of James Foley, said a Foreign Office spokesman.
The government has appointed Lt Gen Sir Simon Mayall, its senior defence advisor for the Middle East, as the new security envoy, and said he will travel to Iraq next week to meet political leaders in Baghdad and attempt Iraq’s communities to “unite together”.
The UK has already assisted the Kurdish peshmerga in containing IS by delivering equipment and plans to deliver east European ammunition and weaponry “with which they are already familiar”, Mr Hammond said.
The government is “scoping what we could supply ourselves”, potentially including night vision equipment, body armour, weaponry and ammunition, he added.
“The brutal murder of the American journalist James Foley by Isil [IS] is a reminder to us all that Islamic extremism in Iraq and Syria is not only causing huge suffering in those countries but is also a barbaric ideology threatening us at home,” Mr Hammond wrote in the Sunday Times.
“Isil’s so-called caliphate has no moral legitimacy; it is a regime of torture, arbitrary punishment and murder that goes against the most basic beliefs of Islam.”
Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said a “concerted international response” is needed to tackle the crisis, but wrote in the paper: “We cannot pretend the barbarism is none of our business when so many British citizens are being drawn in.”
“We support work by government, police and agencies against extremism but now further action is needed,” she added.
“Preventing radicalisation and challenging extremism isn’t simple. But the current government programme has gaps and needs to adapt.”
She said there is “too little support for communities and parents desperately trying to stop their own young people being drawn in”, and said more needs to be done to tackle radicalisation.
Home Secretary Theresa May has announced plans to impose stricter measures and bring in new laws to fight the threat of extermism spreading in the UK.
In the wake of the murder of James Foley, Mrs May said the UK must use legal powers in a battle against extermism that could last decades.
New powers will be examined to stop radical preachers, as well as banning orders for extremist groups.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, she emphasised changes to the law that allowed the government to strip naturalised Britons of their citizenship if fighting overseas and exclude them from the country.