Five Britons a week travel to Iraq and Syria to join ISIS, says the UK’s most senior police officer. Britain’s top police officer warns about terror threat of returning fighters, as third Portsmouth jihadi reported dead in Kobani…
Five Britons are travelling to Iraq and Syria to join Islamic State (ISIS) every week, the UK’s most senior police officer has revealed, after reports that a third jihadi from Portsmouth has been killed in the conflict. The Metropolitan police commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, said the figure was a minimum and the “drumbeat of terrorism in the UK” was now “faster and more intense. Those are the ones that we believe have gone. There may be many more who set out to travel to another country and meandered over to Syria and Iraq in a way that is not always possible to spot when you have failed states and leaky borders,” Hogan-Howe said.
Speaking at a national security conference in London, he said militants’ activities were “not just the horrors of distant lands” and warned of the terrorist threat posed in the UK by returning fighters. Mamunur Roshid, 24, was known to be one of six men from Portsmouth who travelled to Syria in 2013 and reports by religious leaders in the city that he had died follow the deaths of Ifthekar Jaman, 23, last December and Muhammad Hamidur Rahman, 25, in July. Experts in tracking the movements of foreign fighters in wartorn Syria said Roshid may have been killed in the continuing battle for Kobani, where ISIS is fighting Kurds and the US air force for control of the town, which borders Turkey.
Hogan-Howe said: “The advance of IS across Iraq and Syria, which happened incredibly quickly, indeed now towards Turkey, are not just the horrors of distant lands. We know that over 500 British nationals travelled to join the conflict. Many have returned and many will wish to do so in the coming months and perhaps in future years”.
The Met say they have made 218 arrests for terrorist-related activity this year, an increase of about 70 per cent in three years. “A large part of this increased arrest rate is due to terrorist activities, plots and planning linked to Syria. The trend is, I think, set to continue,” Hogan-Howe said. He added that the return of “potentially militarised individuals” to the streets of the UK “is a risk to our communities”. The chair of Portsmouth’s Jami mosque, Abdul Jalil, said the local community were shocked to hear of another young man’s death and there were reports that a fourth man from the city was in hospital in Syria. “It is very sad. The family got the news on Sunday evening that he died on Friday … [and] that it was in Syria.”
“We are very worried about this. The imam will speak about this at the mosque on Friday, telling people not to go to Syria,” he added. “We are doing everything we can, we are speaking with the council, the crime prevention team. We are handing out leaflets about what is happening there.” Roshid was part of a group of five Bengali men who travelled from the port city in October to join Jaman, also from Portsmouth.
Details of their journey via a flight from Gatwick to Antalya, Turkey, emerged in May when one of the five, Mashudur Choudhury, 31, became the first Briton to be convicted of terrorism offences related to the Syrian conflict. Choudhury said he got to know Roshid “a few months” before he left for Syria last October and had him in his phone as “Mamun Sleepyhead.” “The guy loves his food, he’s always eating, that’s why I described him as a sleepy person, [although] we were not good friends.”
Earlier, two houses in Portsmouth, including Jaman’s family home, were among properties raided by counter-terrorism police. Officers from the south-east counter-terrorism unit were granted until October 28 to question some of those involved in arrests following the raids which included Jaman’s brothers, Tuhim, 26, and Mustakim, 23 and his brother. Shiraz Maher, a senior researcher at King’s College London’s international centre for the study of radicalism, said: “It is probable that Roshid died in the battle for Kobani as another of his Portsmouth counterparts, Muhammad Mehdi Hasan, is known to be fighting there, although we haven’t been able to independently verify this yet.” Maher says the centre has so far confirmed the deaths of more than 20 jihadis who have travelled from Britain to fight in Syria.
“The Portsmouth cluster of fighters is perhaps one of the best known. In total six men went to join Islamic State last year. Now three are dead, one returned to the UK and is in jail, and two remain fighting in Syria.”