How Should UK Jihadists Be Dealt With?


Au cours de ces derniers jours, nous avons pu voir l’Etat islamique mettre leurs menaces à exécution sur des otages américains. En effet, après les macabres assassinats des journalistes James Foley et Steven Sotloff, c’est au tour d’un otage britannique d’être menacé de mort.


At this moment, another man is under threat. Indeed, in the last video from the Islamic State, where Steven Sotloff is killed, a jihadist threatens David Cawthrone Haines, a British hostage. For the Islamic State, the United Kingdom is too close to the United States, in fact, their message is “for the governments that formed a devilish union with America: go away and leave us alone!”. David Haines is a humanitarian worker who was kidnapped on March, 12th 2013 in Atmeh, a town next to Turkey.

How will the UK government handle this issue?

Last year, during the G8 summit in Northern Ireland, David Cameron insisted that the government would not pay any ransom or negotiate with terrorists in such crises. (Not as France does.) Now, Mr Cameron has choose whether the United Kingdom is going to help the United States by sending armed troops. It could also be possible to join the US in mounting air strikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and perhaps in Syria. But the UK is struggling with some bad memories: the intervention in Iraq in 2003, and last year, the Syrian civil war and the use of chemical weapons (condemned by the UK). Those memories have turned public opinion against the idea of an intervention. 50 % of the British people are actually against it, according to the Independent.

Something else is currently making the headlines: the identity of the hostages’ murderer. He could be a British citizen. In the videos posted by the Islamic State on the internet, the jihadist who recorded the speech and the murder was betrayed by his strong London accent. So, it may be assumed that he is an Isis (British Islamic State) member. His violent words bode ill for the British hostage: So just as your missiles continue to strike our people, our knife will continue to strike the necks of your people”. The man, nicknamed “Jihadi John” may be one of the 500 Britons who joined the civil war with Islamists in Syria. No official identification has yet been made. However, Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, 24, a former rapper fighting with Isis in Syria is believed to be quite a good suspect.

Abdel-Majed Abdel BaryAbdel-Majed Abdel Bary

To tackle this issue, the UK might take some strong measures. Indeed, Abdel Bary’s father, who is an Egyptian refugee, seemed to be one of Osama Bin Laden’s closest lieutenants and he was extradited from Britain to the US because he was suspected of playing a role in the bombings of two US embassies in East Africa in 1998. Furthermore, Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary has many posts which could prove his closest relations with jihadis. That is why David Cameron wants to stop people being radicalised and traveling abroad. But this solution is fraught with legal difficulties. It will be very hard for the UK to withdraw passports form British jihadis and remain within the legal frame of international law. Therefore he also wants to raise awareness by boosting existing terrorism prevention measures. 

Nevertheless, people who are suspected of being jihadists and returning from Iraq and Syria might lose their citizenship. On Tuesday morning, David Anderson, the independent reviewer of terrorism, said the powers to withdraw passports from UK citizens were difficult to give to the police. Before this difficulty, they need to present other options: instead of withdrawing citizenship, they could find a way to stop people returning in the first place by taking their passports away temporarily at the British border before they leave. For this, they have to draft legislation so they can protect existing powers on passports confiscation under so-called royal prerogative. However, this would not solve the whole problem: “they have to disrupt the patterns of association that people subject to Tpims (terrorism prevention and investigation measures) have with other individuals”, according to the Liberal Democrat leader.

London mayor Boris Johnson, made an announcement on LBC radio: he said that people who go off to the Islamic Republic of Syria and Iraq, signal their allegiance to the Islamic State and engage in jihad, and thus forfeit their right to UK citizenship.

boris-johnson_3016150bThe Mayor of London joins calls for jihadists to be stripped of their citizenship

He added that if people want to leave for that war zone, they have to identify themselves to the authorities and explain why they want to go there (if its for humanitarian purposes for example). When they come back one is entitled to be suspicious. Cameron claimed that “it absolutely sticks in the craw that someone can go from this country to Syria, declare jihad, make all sorts of plans to start doing us damage and then contemplate returning to Britain having declared their allegiance to another state“. However, Cameron doesn’t want to get involved too quickly. He wants to weigh all of his options and added that “the British government must reserve the right to act immediately and inform the House of Commons afterwards”.



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