Report: 250 Extremists Reportedly Return to UK
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - Around 250 British jihadists returned to the UK after training and fighting in Syria, a senior Whitehall security official told the Sunday Times. Security services are monitoring the “extremist tourists”, fearing they might carry out attacks at home.
Ministers have been informed that more than 400 Britons went to Syria to engage in militant activities, and “Well over half of those who traveled out have come back,” the official told the Times.
Senior security officials say the number of “returnees” is now five times the previously reported figure, highlighting the growing threat of so–called ‘extremist tourists’ going to warzones and returning home hardened militants.
"For some, their jihad is done, others will help others travel to Syria, while others will raise funds for fighting," the Whitehall source said.
The security services are said to be closely monitoring the 250 returnees, who include several veteran hardliners who have fought in Afghanistan or Pakistan. Many others have participated in combat or received training in munitions or other skills applicable to terror operations, with some exhibiting a willingness to carry out attacks in the UK, security officials cited in the report said.
“There are a few hundred people going out there. They may be injured or killed, but our biggest worry is when they return they are radicalized, they may be militarized, they may have a network of people that train them to use weapons,” London police chief Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe told the paper.
When RT contacted the British Home Office, it responded with a pre-prepared statement from Immigration and Security Minister James Brokenshire.
In the statement, Brokenshire said there “up to 200 UK nationals” fighting in Syria “who may come in to contact with extremist groups that aspire to attack Western countries.”
He did not comment on Sunday’s report, however, only saying that the British government “is determined to detect, disrupt and where possible prosecute all terrorist threats, whether international or home-grown.”
Overall, around 2,000 European citizens are currently believed to be fighting in Syria. In January, the Wall Street Journal reported that intelligence agents from several European countries, including the UK, Germany, France and Spain, first traveled to Damascus last summer to speak with Syrian officials on how to work together to tackle the European jihadist threat.
The agents reportedly sought to share information on at least 1,200 European jihadists who traveled to Syria to help topple the government.