News Middle East

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Up to 450 British nationals now fighting in Syria and Iraq

Published 03/07/2014 | 08:09

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Members of the Iraqi security forces gesture after clashes with followers of Shi'ite cleric Mahmoud al-Sarkhi
Members of the Iraqi security forces gesture after clashes with followers of Shi'ite cleric Mahmoud al-Sarkhi

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.

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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 ask.fm 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.

Independent News Service

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