22 Jun 2014

Britain to feel Syria ripples ‘for many years to come’

A top counter terrorism expert has warned of the long term effects of Syria amid claims that 300 jihadists fighting there may have returned to the UK.

Britain will be living with the consequences of Islamic extremism and the repercussions of Syria for “many years to come”, a top counter-terrorism expert has warned.

The comments from Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan Police’s assistant commissioner and head of specialist operations, follow the release of a recruitment video for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham which appears to feature several Britons who say they fought in Syria, calling for UK Muslims to join Isis in Iraq.

Ms Dick said the Syria conflict represented a terrorist threat to the UK, and that young British Muslims who have travelled to there to fight might commit violence when they return.

“I’m afraid I believe that we will be living with the consequences of Syria – from a terrorist point of view, let alone the world, geopolitical consequences – for many, many, many years to come,” she told the BBC.

‘Terrorist incubator’

Two other men were arrested in March and April in the UK after they returned from Syria. The pair, aged 19 and 23 and both also from Cardiff, were held on suspicion of receiving terrorist training and attending a place used for terrorist training, but were later released without charge.

Richard Barrett, the former head of anti-terrorism at MI6, said that as many as 300 Britons who have fought with jihadist forces in Syria may have returned to the UK.

He told the Independent on Sunday the conflict has been an “incubator of new terrorists” with combat skills.

He has co-authored a report suggesting that one in nine foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq will return to become a terrorist threat in their home countries, claiming there are more than 12,000 foreigners fighting in the Syrian civil war.

Mr Barrett and his co-authors claim there are more than 12,000 foreigners fighting in the Syrian civil war.

Nasser Muthana, 20, was featured in the recruitment film alongside at least two other fighters who it is claimed are British and on their way to fight jihad in Iraq.

The father of Mr Muthana and his brother, 17-year-old Aseel, said he was distraught they left to fight in Syria and has called for their return.

Mr Muthana told the Sunday Telegraph: “Behind this are Islamic radicals, hiding behind the scenes, influencing the minds of young people.

“It is not members of the Yemeni community in Cardiff. Someone is persuading them, brainwashing them, helping them travel, arranging tickets.”

‘Police priority’

South Wales Police said in a statement they were “increasingly concerned about the numbers of young people who have or are intending to travel to Syria to join the conflict”.

“The issue is not unique to Cardiff or Wales and is a priority for police and security services across the UK,” they added.

Police across the UK have made 65 Syria-related arrests over the last 18 months, including 40 in the first three months of this year alone.