Friday 24 November 2017

Ex-Guantanamo Bay detainee from UK 'joins Islamic State in Syria'

Islamic State controls about a third of Iraq
Islamic State controls about a third of Iraq

James Tapsfield

Ministers are facing questions after a British former Guantanamo Bay detainee apparently travelled to join Islamic State (IS) fighters in Syria.

Muslim convert Jamal al Harith was freed from the US detention centre in 2004 after the Government lobbied for his release.

But according to Channel 4 News he travelled to join IS - also known as Isil and Daesh - 18 months ago.

Home Affairs Select Committee chairman Keith Vaz told the programme he would be asking for an explanation from Home Secretary Theresa May.

"Whether or not this was known to the authorities we will have to find out, but it is extraordinary that this happened to him after the assurances that had been given both by the British government and others about why he should be released from Guantanamo Bay," he said.

"This is something that needs to be pursued."

Mr Vaz added: "Of course I will have to write to the Home Secretary because the committee has a very keen interest in these matters and we need to know how this journey happened without the British authorities being aware of it."

Al Harith was born Ronald Fiddler, before turning to Islam in the 1990s and changing his name. He travelled to the Pakistani city of Quetta in 2001 for what he claimed was a religious holiday.

He has insisted he tried to enter Iran when the US invaded neighbouring Afghanistan, but was captured and imprisoned by the Taliban on suspicion of being a UK spy.

When US forces took the jail a few months later, they sent al Harith to Guantanamo. He was eventually released in March 2004.

The Home Office said it did not comment on individual cases. "The UK advises against all travel to Syria and parts of Iraq. Anyone who does travel to these areas, for whatever reason, is putting themselves in considerable danger," a spokeswoman said.

"Those who travel abroad in order to participate in conflicts may be committing criminal or terrorism offences and could face prosecution when they return to the UK.

"A decision on whether to prosecute will be taken by the police and Crown Prosecution Service on a case by case basis.

"The best way to help the people in Iraq and Syria is to donate to registered charities that have ongoing relief operations."

Press Association

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