International News 1st September 2014



Britons fighting for the brutal Islamist group terrorising the Middle East have faked their deaths on the battlefield in an attempt to return to the UK undetected, according to security sources.  In one case, the martyrdom of a fighter in Syria was announced by his colleagues on social media, only for police to arrest the “dead” individual at Dover. The use of such tactics emerged just days after Prime Minister David Cameron warned that jihadists with the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, are planning attacks on British soil. One fighter has called for the prime minister and Theresa May, the home secretary, to be taken hostage and beheaded.

He has also expressed a desire for “more Lee Rigby scenarios in the UK” — a reference to the murder last year of a British soldier in Woolwich, south-east London. At least 400 British Muslims have travelled to Syria, with many of them joining ISIS, a group that has now taken control of large swathes of neighbouring Iraq and is regarded as so ruthless that it has even been disowned by al-Qaida. As many as 250 of these fighters are thought to have returned to the UK, while others continue to head out to the battle zone. ISIS has released a new recruitment video featuring three young Britons urging westerners to join the jihad in Syria and Iraq. 

One of the British fighters, identified as Reyaad Khan, 20, a former student at a Catholic college in Cardi ff, said: “You can be here in these golden times … or you can be on the sidelines.” Khan is understood to be one of four men from the Welsh capital who travelled to Syria in November last year. His friend, Nasser Muthana, 20, an aspiring doctor, also appeared in the ISIS video. The two other men from Cardiff, aged 19 and 23, returned to the UK earlier this year and were arrested on suspicion of receiving terrorist training. They were later released without charge. It is understood that security officials fear more fighters in future could fake their death abroad to allow them to slip back into Britain. 

The threat posed by such returnees is shown by an ISIS fighter in Syria who uses the alias Abu Rashash Britani. He recently posted a message on Twitter which said: “When we establish khilafah (an Islamic state), a battalion of mujahideen shud head to UK & capture David Cameron & Theresa May and behead them both.” An earlier post stated: “I really would like to see more Lee Rigby scenarios in UK and hoping it spreads to other western nations like US and allies.” Many of Abu Rashash’s tweets refer to people linked to al-Muhajiroun, an extremist group banned by the Home Office and once led by the hate preachers Anjem Choudary and Omar Bakri Muhammad.

Last week it emerged that Abu Rahin Aziz, one of Choudary’s acolytes, fled to Syria in March after being charged in relation to a group attack on a football fan in London. Aziz, 32, from Luton, was jailed for 36 weeks in his absence by a judge at the Old Bailey. Abu Rashash repeatedly posted messages about the case and a related trial involving a sectarian attack on Shi’ite Muslims by Choudary supporters, fuelling suspicion that Aziz is behind the Twitter account. Aziz has openly tweeted in the past using an account called Global Tawheed. The last message — in support of ISIS — appeared on June 10. The inflammatory Abu Rashash Twitter account was opened on June 11 and operated until it was suspended last week.

Aziz failed to respond to a request for comment. His family in Luton also declined to speak, but a friend said they found out only recently that he had travelled to Syria and were “shocked and disappointed”.  Yesterday Muthana’s father, Ahmed, said his son, Khan and two other friends from Cardiff all travelled to Syria, via Turkey, last November. They were later joined by another of his sons, Aseel, 17. Muthana said the young men were regular visitors to the Al-Manar Islamic centre in Cardiff and speculated that visiting clerics may have “put ideas into their heads”. His older son, Nasser, appeared on the ISIS video under the alias Abu Muthanna al-Yemeni, a reference to the family’s origins in Yemen.

Khan used the nickname Abu Dujana al-Hindi.  However, his family hails from Bangladesh rather than India as his alias suggests.  He studied at the Cantonian High School before moving to the sixth from at St David’s Catholic College.  A former classmate said “He didn’t really strike me as extremist at school.   He did have an obsession with Muhammad Ali, though.”  Ahmed Muthana said he believed the third Briton in the video, who used the alias Abu Bara al-Hindi, is from Leicester and known as “Raqib”.   Wearing wraparound sunglasses and an Armani T-shirt, Abu Bara urged Britons to sacrifice their “fat job, big car and family” for the ISIS cause. 

Source: The Sunday Times

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Pope Francis has strongly condemned the legalization of recreational drugs, saying all drug use was “evil”. Francis told participants from a drug enforcement conference in Rome that attempts to legalize recreational drugs were “not only highly questionable from a legislative standpoint,” but failed to produce “the desired effects.” It is not the first time that the Pope has spoken out against what he calls the “scourge of drug use”; he met cocaine addicts in Rio de Janeiro on his first official visit to Brazil last year. But it was a particularly strong statement from the Pontiff and is likely to add to the debate in the U.S. following the legalization of marijuana for recreational use in Colorado and Washington state in 2012. 

“Let me state this in the clearest terms possible: the problem of drug use is not solved with drugs! Drug addiction is an evil, and with evil there can be no yielding or compromise,” Francis said. “To think that harm can be reduced by permitting drug addicts to use narcotics in no way resolves the problem. The Pope said drug use was fed by a “deplorable” international commerce that put the lives of adolescents and young people in danger. “Faced with this reality, I can only manifest my grief and concern,” he said. He said “substitute drugs” were a “veiled means” of surrendering, and said there should be no room for illicit drugs, alcohol abuse or other forms of addiction.