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Thursday, 21 August 2014

UK hunts ‘British’ beheading suspect

James Foley beheading: Hunt on for ‘British’ jihadistUS journalist James Foley had been missing since he seized in Syria in 2012

Police and security services are attempting to identify a suspected British jihadist who appeared in footage of the killing of a US journalist.
Extremist group Islamic State (IS) published a video of the moments before and after James Foley was beheaded.
Unconfirmed reports suggest the man in the video – who has an English accent – is from London or the South East.
Mr Foley, 40, had been missing since he was seized in Syria in 2012.
‘Huge problems’
Prime Minister David Cameron said it looked “increasingly likely” the man thought to be involved in the killing was British, but that it was “not a time for a knee-jerk reaction”.
Mr Cameron – who broke off from his holiday on Wednesday – is to return to Cornwall but will continue to take calls and briefings, Downing Street said.
David Cameron returned from holiday in Cornwall to chair meetings
The Metropolitan Police have warned that “viewing, downloading or disseminating” the video might be an offence under terrorism laws.
Meanwhile, officials have said the US launched an unsuccessful mission to try to free Mr Foley and other American hostages in Syria.
BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner said the man in the video was thought to have travelled to Syria in the last three years. There were unconfirmed reports that he was in a small group of Britons tasked with guarding IS hostages, he added.
The Guardian said the man was thought to be the leader of a group of British fighters based in Syria. The paper said he called himself “John” and was believed to be from London.
‘Remove passports’
Former MI6 director of global counter-terrorism Richard Barrett told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme he believed the man would be traced, but there would be “huge problems involved” with bringing him to justice.
He added: “There are courses of action that can be taken and once he is identified then that course of action becomes a lot clearer.”
The man shown in the video spoke with an English accent
The video footage of Mr Foley, titled A Message to America, shows the journalist wearing an orange jumpsuit, kneeling in desert-like terrain beside an armed man dressed in black.
The masked militant, who identifies himself as an IS member, says the journalist’s death is in retaliation for US attacks on IS in Iraq.
After he speaks, the militant appears to start cutting at his captive’s neck before the video fades to black.
Mr Foley’s body is then seen on the ground.
Analysis: BBC Security Correspondent Frank Gardner
The race to identify James Foley’s killer has been taking many forms.
On the databases of MI5, the UK security service, in the records of the Police Counter-Terrorism Unit and out in the digital forums and social media postings of the internet, clues are being examined and assessed.
The man in the video of the journalist’s final moments is thought to have probably come from London or south-east England. He is presumed to have travelled to Syria some time during the last three years and he will be well-known to some in jihadist circles.
Unconfirmed reports say he is one of a small handful of Britons tasked with guarding Islamic State’s western captives. The militant who appears in the video is careful to keep much of his face hidden but the voice on the tape is distinctive and analysts believe it is only a matter of time before he is identified.
Bringing him to justice though, will be an altogether more difficult proposition.
It is estimated that IS, which has seized large parts of northern Iraq and Syria, has up to 400 recruits from the UK in its ranks.
Some 69 people suspected of Syria-related jihadist activities have been arrested in the UK.
Baroness Neville-Jones, a former chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee, and ex-security minister in the coalition government, told Today there was a “huge task to be done” to staunch the flow of British people going to join Islamic militant groups.
Sir Iqbal Sacranie, an adviser to the Muslim Council of Britain, warned of a “sub-culture of jihadi-cool” as it was described in the media, and about the ideology of militant groups which was “totally alien to Islam”.
The current approach to preventing extremism had “failed dismally”, he added as he called on the government and community groups to work “as a team” to tackle the issue.
UKIP leader Nigel Farage said anyone involved in fighting with extremist militants should have their passports removed and be prevented from returning to Britain.
“I am sure that one or two will slip through the net,” he said.
“But let’s at least signal our intent, and let’s at least make clear that we do not want such people back within British society.”
  • Formed out of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) in 2013, IS captured Raqqa in eastern Syria
  • By early 2014 it controlled Falluja in western Iraq
  • It has since captured broad swathes of Iraq, seizing Mosul in the north in June
  • The violence has displaced an estimated 1.2 million people in Iraq alone
  • Pursuing an extreme form of Sunni Islam, IS has persecuted non-Muslims such as Yazidis and Christians, as well as Shia Muslims, whom it regards as heretics
  • In July alone, IS expanded dramatically, recruiting some 6,300 new fighters largely in Raqqa, an activist monitoring group said
Islamic State activities as of 14 August
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