West should prepare for ISIS international terror attacks, warns UK Foreign Secretary
Published 20/08/2014 | 10:57
The Foreign Secretary has said the man shown beheading James Foley in a video appears to be British as he warned that the Islamic State could launch terrorist attacks on the UK.
Philip Hammond said the militant group, known as Isis, was not just a threat to Syria and Iraq, where it has killed countless civilians and caused thousands of people to flee in terror, but to our own national security.
“If Isis becomes established in Iraq and Syria it will undoubtedly use it as a base for launching attacks on the West,” he told Radio 4’s Today programme.
"It will undoubtedly send its fighters out to attack Western targets.
“Equally, if it gets pushed back, some of these people will return to their country of origin and it’s not just the UK.
“We will see these people going back and potentially carrying on their fight in our homelands.”
David Cameron is returning to Downing Street today to hold meetings over the murder and the escalating crisis in Iraq.
The Prime Minister, who was on holiday in Cornwall with his family, will meet Mr Hammond and senior security officials, a Downing Street spokesperson said.
Mr Hammond said it was “far too late” to worry about the consequences of effectively waging war on Isis, who are believed to have beheaded Mr Foley in revenge for US air strikes against militants in Iraq.
“We oppose them with every breath in our body,” he added.
“Isis are waging war on moderate Islamic opinion and they are waging war on the West and we have to deal with them on that basis.”
The former Defence Secretary said Britain would supply weapons, technical support, intelligence and surveillance at the request of Iraqi and Kurdish forces battling against the jihadists.
He did not rule out the possibility that soldiers would be sent to Iraq for training purposes but said he did not view this as “boots on the ground” and insisted they would not be involved in combat.
Mr Hammond would not respond to questions on the reported presence of British special forces in Iraq but did not deny the suggestion.
He called the apparent beheading of Mr Foley, who was abducted while reporting on the Syrian civil war in 2012, “one more example in a catalogue of brutality” by Isis.
American intelligence agencies have not yet verified the video but Mr Foley’s family appeared to accept he had been killed on Tuesday night, saying he “gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people”.
The Foreign Secretary told BBC Breakfast “all the hallmarks point to it being genuine” and acknowledged that the killer sounded British, prompting an urgent investigation by experts.
“Certainly at first pass that's what it looks like and we will obviously want to investigate that further,” he added.
"We have been saying for a long time that there are a significant number of British nationals in Syria and Iraq operating with extremist organisations.
“That's one of the reasons why this organisation represents such a direct threat to the UK's national security.
"Many of these people may seek at some point to return to the UK and they would then pose a direct threat to our domestic security."
Mr Hammond said the Government believed British nationals in Syria were “involved in terrible crimes” and committing atrocities with Isis and other Islamist groups.
The apparent beheading of Mr Foley was terrible but did not change the ongoing British operation to tackle people travelling abroad to join terrorist groups, he said.
“I don’t think this video changes anything,” he added. “It just heightens awareness of a situation that is very grave and that we’ve been working on for many months.”