View Full Version : Foreign Fighters: preventative action (UK mainly)

04-24-2014, 03:20 PM
Moderators Note: Title changed today from 'May 1940 Dad's Army, April 2014 Mum's Army (http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showthread.php?t=20549)' to 'Foreign Fighters: preventative action (UK mainly)' (ends).

There is a long running thread on UK CT, but today CT took a new twist. Which is neatly labelled 'safeguarding'.

Historical passage to explain the title. Following our defeat in France in May 1940 a volunteer local defence force was created, popularly known after a BBC comedy series as 'Dad's Army'.

One headline 'Syria crisis: stop your sons joining war, urges Met police' from The Guardian:http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/apr/23/sons-war-syria-metropolitan-police?

On the BBC the senior UK CT police officer was interviewed, along with a critic, Keith Vaz MP (6 mins):http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-27137743

From one report her comments:
We want to ensure that people, particularly women, who are concerned about their loved ones are given enough information about what they can do to prevent this from happening. We want to increase their confidence in the police and partners to encourage them to come forward so that we can intervene and help. This is not about criminalising people. It is about preventing tragedies.Keith Vaz, whose Select Committee is looking at CT:
There is no evidence that families know. Young people are just leaving without telling families and their families are the last to know...The evidence we received is that the police don't know how to stop this.A view from the "grass roots" by a respected youth worker in Birmingham:
Atif Iqbal, of the United Birmingham campaign, who travelled to Syria to deliver food, said clarity was needed about how people could provide humanitarian help while staying within the law. "What is the legal framework – that is what we need some clarity on. It's very ambiguous, the goalposts keep changing,"...The Daily Telegraph has a similar story:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/10783156/Syria-related-arrests-soar-as-police-urge-mothers-and-wives-to-stop-would-be-jihadists.html

The Quilliam Foundation is supportive, but calls for more efforts:http://www.quilliamfoundation.org/press-releases/quilliam-respond-to-national-awareness-campaign-on-travelling-to-fight-in-syria/

How will Muslim mothers react? That is to the say the least very unclear. The media often rely on very little known women to speak, so the BBC has one who is critical:
..there was so much mistrust of the police in her community that many people would be too afraid to report friends and family to authorities.Link to short video clip:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-27137889

04-24-2014, 03:26 PM
Some official context:
The number of people travelling to Syria from the UK is judged to be in the low hundreds and available information shows that the number of Syria-related arrests increased substantially in 2014. The figure for the whole of 2013 was approximately 25 yet for the first three months of 2014 alone it is approximately 40.

Since January five people from Birmingham have been charged with Syrian-related offences and are currently awaiting trial.


The main, eight page publication:http://www.west-midlands.police.uk/docs/keeping-you-safe/behind-the-badge/tackling-terrorism/ACPO_Syria_booklet_04.04.14.pdf

04-24-2014, 10:53 PM
A BBC reporter, Catrin Nye, who specialises in reporting on the UK Asian scene, tweeted today:
Just spoke to Brit Muslim currently fighting in Syria, he says family didn't know he was going, not even his mother could have stopped him.

04-24-2014, 10:56 PM
A "lurker" has responded, based on their "hands on" experience in IW and knowledge of Syria:

- Syria is not a Western occupation, and it is difficult to paint it as such. The most convincing way of directing ire towards the west in relation to the situation in Syria is to accuse Washington, London etc of "doing nothing"
- Syrians dont like ISIS. This means potential volunteers, find it difficult to avoid the reality that the Muslim v. West narrative is overly simplistic
- The sectarian nature of the Syrian war is unavoidable, so it is difficult for extremists to maintain traction for the "Muslims vs West" narrative. or, at least harder than it is when it comes to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq etc


- Scant knowledge amongst volunteers of Syria's political, social or cultural context. ie. it is easier to paint the conflict as whatever you want - for a period of time, at least
- The rise of "doomsday prophecies" around the conflict. (ie that its part of a long foretold religious prediction about the coming of the mehdi/jesus) and heralds the end of the world. Both the Iranians and AQ are using this according to their (slightly) differing religious traditions.
- Fighting in Syria can be seen by volunteers as a duty that does not contradict their loyalty to the UK. This means that UK government efforts to stop them then become seen as a sinister plot to stop them helping Syrians. (Such conspiracies already exist amongst Syrians who believe the only explanation for the lack of military support is due to the West's desire to keep a weak dictator in place so that Israel is not challenged as the regional power)
- Extremely limited trust in HMG following Iraq (and domestic trust scandals)

04-26-2014, 01:48 PM
A taster for this Calgary, Canada mother's journey
His mother, Christianne Boudreau, noticed the change as well. The year before her son left, he became secretive and argumentative. He peddled 9/11 conspiracy theories and said the media weren’t telling the truth about what was happening to Muslims around the world. “He would get pretty worked up about it and conversations could get pretty heated,” she said. He started working out at the gym and would go on hikes with his prayer group. But Mrs. Boudreau thought it was just his nature to immerse himself in his interests. “Certain things, he’d get really zestful about,” she said. “And then he’d get bored and move on to the next thing."

When her son told her he would be travelling to Egypt to study Arabic, Mrs. Boudreau never thought he’d actually go through with it. He was always a big talker. The night before he was supposed to leave, in November 2012, the family went out for dinner and he came back to her townhouse and played video games with his little brother. He seemed relaxed and happy-go-lucky. Only when he called from the plane in the morning did she realize he was actually going to do it...I had no idea,” Mrs. Boudreau said.


04-26-2014, 01:51 PM
A column by a British Muslim activist:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/10784489/Syria-crisis-Many-British-families-are-oblivious-to-would-be-jihadists.-Thats-why-women-must-talk-to-loved-ones-early-on.html

05-20-2014, 06:04 PM
A strange case and one wonders if the threat at home is real. The BBC's detailed commentary opens with:
A Portsmouth man accused of trying to join Islamist fighters in Syria has become the first person in the UK to be convicted of a terrorist offence relating to the conflict. A jury at Kingston Crown Court found Mashudur Choudhury guilty of preparing for acts of terrorism after a two-week trial. But what exactly was Choudhury up to - and why does this conviction matter?

If there is one thing that is true about Mashudur Choudhury, it is that he is a liar and a fantasist.Link:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-27491066 and http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-27488006

I note his conviction is for:
...engaging in conduct in preparation of terrorist acts....The court heard he had travelled to Syria to attend a terrorist training camp. He was arrested at Gatwick Airport on his return to the UK......Prosecutors at the trial said Choudhury had wanted to be trained in the use of firearms and intended to pursue a "political, religious or ideological cause".One wonders if a conviction can be secured if someone claims their fight was to protect the civilian population.

The later BBC report asks:
The outcome also raises another question: what will happen to the large numbers of British men still in Syria? Will these men ever come back?Yesterday I caught part of an excellent WoTR online discussion and Shiraz Maher, of ICSR, stated that two hundred and fifty "fighters" had already returned to the UK. I will listen again this evening:http://warontherocks.com/2014/05/the-jihad-splits-al-qaeda-and-isis/

Background on SWC

There are two recent, relevant threads Today's Wild Geese: Foreign Fighters in the GWOT (http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showthread.php?t=14841&highlight=fighters) and a smaller one Foreign fighters in Syria: a crime minus a motive? (http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showthread.php?t=19976&highlight=fighters)

05-23-2014, 02:17 PM
A fascinating glimpse into the "shades of grey" over the legality and illegality of fighting in Syria, for UK nationals / residents. Under the headline:
Syria conflict: British jihadists are nothing like the freedom fighters of the Spanish Civil War

Prosecutorial discretion:
For example, let’s imagine a Briton is visiting family in Syria and the neighbourhood comes under attack by regime forces, or indeed rebel ones. If said Briton were to subsequently use weapons to help defend family members or other innocent people, he would not necessarily be prosecuted in the UK. However, those who join terrorism-linked groups and proactively engage in militant activity are far likelier to be prosecuted.


I suspect discretion was used when many exiles returned to Libya, to my knowledge no-one was arrested.

07-08-2014, 02:31 PM
Which led to a CT investigation, with two young B'ham men being charged with terrorism in Syria; in part:
Yusuf Sarwar .. and Nahin Ahmed ... both aged 22 - pleaded guilty to preparing for acts of terrorism, at Woolwich Crown Court today.

In May last year the men purchased one-way tickets to Turkey and later went on to cross the Syrian border. When they returned to the UK after eight months away, officers from the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit were waiting at Heathrow to arrest them.

Traces of military grade explosives were found on their clothing and pictures on their camera showed them brandishing weapons. Detectives used satellite imaging to establish from the photographs that the men had been in and around Aleppo - one of the main conflict zones.


07-15-2014, 05:55 PM
Rachel Briggs of the London-based think tank, the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), has studied counter-radicalisation for a long time and blogs occassionally.

Her blog 'Foreign fighters in Syria: the rise of women and the challenge of prevention' appears to be UK-orientated, but has a wider application in Europe and maybe beyond. Especially over the absence of a counter-narrative:http://rachelbriggs.wordpress.com/2014/07/15/foreign-fighters-in-syria-the-rise-of-women-and-the-challenge-of-prevention/

Readers will be familiar with my viewpoint that there is no counter-narrative, so now here is Rachel, with my emphasis:
There is also an urgent need to compete with violent extremists for the attention of our young people. Extensive social media analysis conducted by my team at ISD reveals that there is almost no counter-narrative activity occurring online. There is no shortage of talk at expensive international conferences about the need for counter-narratives, but there is very little action. Governments are on safe and familiar ground funding meetings, but struggle to get effective counter-messaging campaigns signed off by risk-averse Ministers.

She cites some private work, have a peek - it is for a young Muslim audience:http://www.youtube.com/user/abdullahx

07-21-2014, 09:00 PM
A private group whose sons have left to fight in Syria:
Families matter because they are torn apart when young people travel to Syria and Iraq. Families make a difference because they have the power to reach out and stop this. All families should feel empowered to reach out if they are worried about a loved one who might be thinking of travelling to the region.

We believe families are not alone. That’s why we’ve made a short film with three people talking openly about the impact of a family member travelling. They each speak of the pain and anguish they felt when their loved one left the UK. It’s hard for us to convey the heartbreak, which is why we let them speak for themselves.

Link to website, the 9 minute video is there:http://www.familiesmatter.org.uk/

08-09-2014, 02:09 PM
Hat tip to WoTR for the article 'The Dangerous Nexus Between Radicalism in Britain and Syria’s Foreign Fighters', the author Roger Farhat, a private sector analyst:http://warontherocks.com/2014/08/the-dangerous-nexus-between-radicalism-in-britain-and-syrias-foreign-fighters/

08-25-2014, 09:45 PM
As the UK debates what next, with some frankly bizarre proposals, an academic who has watched has a column:http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/25/legislate-isis-soft-power-radicalisation-britons

Instead, government focus needs to be upon enabling the messy, unpredictable and contingent “dirty work” of local counter-terrorism on the ground, and learning the lessons about what works and what doesn’t from recent experience. This reflects what we know from a growing body of research about the radicalisation process....In sum, what the more successful police forces had worked out was that soft power was more effective in solving problems than an over-reliance on the hard power of coercive law enforcement. It is this understanding that should be developed.

08-26-2014, 04:04 PM
Alyas Karmani, a British Muslim based in Bradford, Yorkshire has long been involved in counter-radicalisation and was interviewed in The Independent on Sunday. He starts with:
What the recent events in Syria show is the abject failure of a counter-messaging and counter-narrative strategy – it just isn't there. We've been talking about this de-radicalisation strategy for many years and yet there's nothing in place.

(Later) Prevent is a tainted brand and a failed strategy; you can't keep on giving life to something which is fundamentally broken. It is disproportionate in that is focuses on Muslim extremism. Prevent is defunct now as far as I'm concerned. It has no credibility whatsoever.

Prevent being part of the UK national CT strategy.


09-02-2014, 07:23 PM
A short article by Professor Andrew Silke, whilst it may apply beyond the UK his focus and examples are British:

A rather sharp passage:
We have to be realistic about how effective it is going to be. There has never been an equivalent programme, for example, for the IRA or other paramilitary groups. And part of the reason is people don’t think it will work for the IRA. But they think it may work on Jihadis because there has been some success in countries like Saudi Arabia.

This week both David Cameron and Ed Miliband have referred to extending counter-radicalisation schemes - with mandatory participation = so this comment is noteworthy:
But one of the key issues of these programmes is they are voluntary. You can’t force people to do it and one third of prisoners referred to the Healthy Identities Programme have refused to take part

09-12-2014, 03:53 PM
I missed this report's publication in July 2014 by an unconventional advocacy group, once known as Caged Prisoners,, now simply Cage:http://cageuk.org/publication/blowback-foreign-fighters-and-threat-they-pose

It is a measure of how this group has moved that a press release this week stated:
Returning fighters from Syria should be allowed to return to the UK and be granted an amnesty. However, where police have found clear evidence of war crimes, then those crimes should be prosecuted accordingly.


09-15-2014, 08:07 PM
A twelve minute long Sky News Special which has some new material, notably an ex-jihadist's explanation of what is involved and the role of gangs, social media and the need to do something:http://news.sky.com/story/1336298/british-jihadis-how-widespread-is-uk-extremism

09-21-2014, 06:50 PM
James Brandon, a British observer of the CT scene has this long column on WoTR, which is rather surprising given his past affiliations to UK "think tanks" who sought a change in the direction of 'Prevent', not that is was a failed strategy:http://warontherocks.com/2014/09/uk-attempts-to-create-moderate-islam-just-failed-what-now/

Significantly, the causes of Prevent’s failure share much in common with other Western attempts to strengthen liberal and democratic Muslim forces in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and elsewhere over the past decade. These include: Choosing the wrong partners, Islamist subversion of new organizations and highly effective Islamist counter-campaigning.

09-22-2014, 12:56 AM
"The significant support for sharia among the younger generation of British Muslims and the spreading of Wahhabism in the United Kingdom has two consequences: One, clerics find themselves in an influential role as the primary interpreters of sharia, and two, many young Muslims are exposed to the idea of armed jihad through their local mosques. As a result, local jihadist clerics such as Sheikh Abdullah el-Faisal and foreign- based ones such as Anwar Al-Awlaki (now deceased) were able to reach out and encourage young Britons into waging armed jihad."


09-29-2014, 11:08 PM
A short UK C4 News report on the Danish approach when fighters return home:http://www.channel4.com/news/can-returning-jihadis-be-reintegrated-into-society

The C4 News website does not have the relevant video clip.

A police officer's explanation:
Everybody is in agreement, early prevention of terrorism is needed. And so we start out with dialogue. We screen each fighter, we assess their needs. We engage with their families and friends, and their mosque, so that they have a well-functioning network around them. This can reduce the risk of them being further radicalised....There is always a risk but the flaw would be to apply tough measures to soft targets, people who are not that radicalised. We believe there are fighres we can still turn around. If you apply harsh measures to them it would be counter-productive, because you risk producing the very violent extremists you are trying to prevent.

10-05-2014, 10:15 PM
A short comprehensive review, the title says it all 'British Jihadis in Iraq and Syria: How should we deal with them when they come home?', in The Independent (UK) newspaper:http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/british-jihadi-fighters-in-iraq-and-syria-how-should-we-deal-with-them-when-they-come-home-9771290.html

The sub-title explains more 'While there is broad consensus that those who pose a threat to national security should be dealt with, many experts argue that not all of the Britons in Syria and Iraq are trained fighters and terrorists'.

Here is one passage on the dilemma for the state:
Worryingly, the government strategy for dealing with returnees appears generalised, untargeted, fragmented and draconian. ...But it is feared that such measures will serve only to send the more moderate returnees, who might otherwise become assets for intelligence services, underground.

For reasons lost on me the UK's 'Prevent' strategy and the cited Channel Project are often praised by officialdom and those abroad. Sadly it has very little credibility where it matters, which is not inside government, but amongst those who need help - not exclusively Muslims either.

10-27-2014, 09:18 PM
Rachel Briggs, who has long been thinking on the 'Prevent' issues, has a blog comment 'We need a more nuanced approach for dealing with british jihadists who want to come home':http://rachelbriggs.wordpress.com/2014/10/27/we-need-a-more-nuanced-approach-for-dealing-with-british-jihadists-who-want-to-come-home/

She starts with:
There are growing reports that British jihadis fighting in Syria want to come home; it has been claimed that dozens are trapped in Syria unable to leave, and up to 100 are stranded in Turkey having made it out of Syria, but worried or unable to come back to the UK.

10-29-2014, 02:57 PM

In your estimation, how much of this is the direct appeal of jihad or Islamism, and how much of it is the appeal of adventure, etc for young men? The 20th century alone is replete with young men joining foreign causes (IDF, French Foreign Legion, Spanish Civil War, South Africa, Nazi SS, etc). It seems to me like there are many who went abroad looking for that kind of experience, only to become disillusioned either with war, ISIS, or some combination in between. What are your thoughts?

10-30-2014, 12:16 PM

In your estimation, how much of this is the direct appeal of jihad or Islamism, and how much of it is the appeal of adventure, etc for young men? The 20th century alone is replete with young men joining foreign causes (IDF, French Foreign Legion, Spanish Civil War, South Africa, Nazi SS, etc). It seems to me like there are many who went abroad looking for that kind of experience, only to become disillusioned either with war, ISIS, or some combination in between. What are your thoughts?

I can only give an estimate about the UK.

It is important to note initially the main emphasis was going to fight in Syria, not Iraq; nor until relatively recently was ISIS the main destination.

Each case is likely to be different, whether it is an individual decision or a small group.

During the Syrian Civil War helping those under attack by the regime was the reason, allied with the apparently steady advance of jihadist groups who stressed jihad and then the pursuit of an AK47 adventure. Once it became apparent this was a horrible civil war, where fighting each other was more likely than fighting the regime, becoming a jihadist came to the fore.

My estimate is that with the public arrival of ISIS there has been a change as the "message" about the battlefield(s) in The Levant being the final battleground emerged. I have doubts that this message even featured before, very few Muslims appear to have acknowledged this factor.

One snag is that to date very few, if any, veterans from Syria have actually talked publicly - when hopefully their disillusionment would be to the fore. It is interesting that some groups and older veterans have advised against going.

11-02-2014, 02:22 PM
In the last CTC Newsltter is a short article, it is slightly strange being based on survey research in Syria:
Over the past year, the authors have surveyed more than 300 FSA fighters as well as Syrian civilians and refugees and 50 Syrian Islamist fighters in the Islamic Front (Ahrar al-Sham) and JN, the latter of which is al-Qa`ida’s affiliate in Syria.

They conclude (cited in part):
At present, the authors’ research suggests that rebel fighters are generally revenge-seeking and driven to Islamist groups not primarily due to ideological motivations, but rather for instrumental reasons. However, once inside the group, they are vulnerable to elite manipulation. ....Islamist groups appear to be having great success harnessing and exploiting Syrian anger for purposes well beyond fighting the al-Assad regime, which is why the current drive in Islamist recruitment in Syria could have important spillover consequences for conflict elsewhere.


11-07-2014, 11:29 AM
A lengthy New Statesman article by ICSR's Shiraz Maher:
From Portsmouth to Kobane: the British jihadis fighting for Isis

(Sub-title) What motivates the young men who leave Britain to join the murderous fanatics of Isis in the Middle East? Shiraz Maher spoke to dozens of them inside Syria to find out.


The stories of the Portsmouth and Manchester boys offer a remarkable insight into the world of foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq. They also reveal the deep chasms within British society. Second- and third-generation immigrants of Muslim Asian origin continue to feel a profound detachment not just from the country in which they were born and educated but from their own families and communities, too. Many of their local leaders are too old to counter the charisma of millenarian propaganda and their experiences are too remote from those of their congregants.

Their stories remind us how powerful social media can be.

11-14-2014, 01:07 PM
Not exactly a surprising announcement by PM David Cameron:
British jihadists who travel abroad to fight could be prevented from returning under new powers outlined by the PM...the special exclusion orders - which could last for two years or more - would bar suspected fighters from entering the UK unless they agreed to strict controls.
Link:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-30041923 and http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-30048278

Just why this statement had to be made in Australia eludes me.

Nothing is said about state actions before aspiring fighters leave the UK, as the Quilliam Foundation note:
Furthermore, if implemented, it presents only a short-term solution to what is a long-term problem. Legislation should encourage citizens to return and face due process rather than force them to stay in a crisis zone and further radicalize either themselves or others in the UK through their online activities.

Nor I would add nothing about those fighters who have already returned and presumably are unknown to the state.

11-16-2014, 10:36 PM
From Lawfare a short piece by Daniel Byman & Jeremy Shapiro, which address whether jailing returning fighters is good public policy:http://www.lawfareblog.com/2014/11/the-foreign-policy-essay-there-and-back-again/

12-07-2014, 01:37 PM
The headline this week in The Guardian, after a terrorism trial where two young men from Birmingham pleaded guilty - anticipating a minimal two years sentence - and got twelve years:http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/dec/06/yusuf-sarwar-mother-british-jihadist-police-betray-syria?CMP=share_btn_tw

One family had reported their son's departure for Syria, to the police and to say the least she is unhappy:
This is not justice. They said I was doing the right thing, that when my son came back they would try to help, but this terrible sentence – all they have done was to set me against my son.

The police say ‘mothers come forward’, you can trust us, we will help. But now they will see what happened to my son. What kind of person would go to the police if they think their son will get 12 years in prison? Nobody wants to do that. I did not want that.

He told me many times he wanted to come home....I wanted to go to Turkey, to go to the border and find him, bring him back. The British Foreign Office and the police said ‘you must not go’ but they then did nothing to get him home. They did nothing. My son is not a terrorist, he didn’t make bombs, he didn’t kill anyone, he tried to help. He did a stupid thing and when he realised this he wanted to come home.The regional police CT leader:
This case typifies the challenges both police and families are facing when it comes to young people being influenced to join the conflict in Syria or Iraq.

These two men had no previous connections to extremist organisations and no police record. They were not known to us.....However, one of them was clearly being influenced by extremists he was talking to online, and he in turn was radicalising his friend. We had no choice but to arrest and charge the pair on their return.
An appeal has been lodged.

I expect the jihadists will be cheering this decision, it will reinforce the reluctance of families to volunteer information on their children being radicalised and travelling to Syria / Iraq.

A short, local BBC report also says this, plus the critical mother talking:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-30370272

01-15-2015, 11:12 PM
An event yesterday @ The Frontline Club, London on the "wicked problem" 'The Fate of Foreign Fighters Returning from Syria and Iraq' with a panel with Shiraz Maher (Kings College's ICSR), Richard Barrett (now with the Soufanb Group, ex-SIS & UN) and Moazzam Begg (ex-GBay detainee):http://www.frontlineclub.com/the-fate-of-foreign-fighters-returning-from-syria-and-iraq/

Recommended listening, it is hard at times.

01-19-2015, 11:40 AM
Sadly a story that is not unexpected, despite all the statements of intent from ministers and others - from the BBC:
The mother of a former jihadist has warned that unless more provisions are put in place to rehabilitate people returning from Syria, the UK risks a future of terror attacks. The woman, known only as "Linda" and from London, travelled to the Syrian borders last year to bring back her radicalised son. She said she has received no support to help reintegrate him back into society.
The Home Office said it did not comment on individual cases.
But the 45-year-old mother told Inside Out London: "The government are aware that he went. Everyone has been informed and nobody's been forthcoming with any kind of offer of support.I went to various places to try and get him help but they've just said, 'you know, there's nothing we can do'."

01-24-2015, 05:03 PM
A C4 report based on two British citizens who went to Syria and have returned. There are is a film clip using two interviews, with some footage on the conflict and a less valuable studio session with experts:http://www.channel4.com/news/syria-britons-islamic-state-ahrar-al-sham-fighters

One expert, Lord West, a former security minister, rightly points out there are two waves of those going to Syria; before Daesh and after Daesh. The hundreds (up to 250) who have returned I'd expect them to be overwhelmingly before Daesh.

03-26-2015, 01:32 PM
The title is taken from the commentary by the chair of the House of Commons Home Affairs select Committee (HASC), which today published its report 'Counter-terrorism: foreign fighters':http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmselect/cmhaff/933/93302.htm

Even WHAM gets a mention:
The number of cases being brought to public attention should ring alarm bells...This must be a relentless battle for hearts and minds, and without a strong counter-narrative we are in danger of failing to prevent even more departures. We are at the edge of a cliff.

The BBC has prepared a database of 160 known UK residents / citizens who have gone and in brief concludes:
The BBC has been tracking the stories of the men, women, boys and girls who have gone to Syria and Iraq to understand why they go, where they go from and what happens to them. By analysing around 160 profiles, it reveals the way in which people have travelled in clusters - a group of three young friends from Coventry, another group from Portsmouth, drawn out by one person they knew, others in Cardiff linked to people involved in an extremist organisation.
Social media might play a part but face-to-face contact appears just as, if not more, important, according to the database.

Their research found of the 160, 36 have died fighting; 13 have been convicted in the UK. Note most open source research, usually reliant on Kings College's ICSR refer to 600 having gone and IIRC 300 have returned.

Personally I do not consider the Uk is 'at the edge of a cliff', although the message that attracts them is undiminished and if remarks at IISS this week are an indicator still little understood. The numbers known to have gone remain small, for example Birmingham has one known fighter (from BBC data), although anecdote suggests at least another three went last year unknown to the authorities.

I just wonder what the 300 who reported have returned are thinking. Have we "won" their heards & minds?

06-26-2015, 09:53 PM
At last an interview with two UK citizens who went to fight the Assad regime in Syria, not joining ISIS or al-Nusra and who have retiurned:http://www.buzzfeed.com/husseinkesvani/british-foreign-fighters

Here is one quote:
...vulnerable young people, especially those who aren’t really practising [Islam], will be attracted to them. The hype about fighting Assad is over, and larger groups like ISIS will have an appeal to these guys – they are in a vulnerable state, and they’re like a sponge, they’ll believe anything.

Another, with my emphasis:
You have all these groups talking about why young people are becoming radicalised and joining groups like ISIS, and there’s no one who can really tell them why what they’re doing is wrong. The groups who are currently talking about deradicalisation have no credibility – you need someone with on the ground experience of the conflict, and people who also believe in the idea of proper jihad … so that you can tell young people what they’re doing isn’t Islamically authentic.

07-07-2015, 07:14 PM
Britain should lay on charter flights to take wannabe British jihadists to Syria so they don’t fester here, a former counter-terrorism police chief has suggested.

You have to think how do you confront it, if you have hundreds or thousands who want to go there and live that life? We should try and convince them not to go. If they want to go, you have to ask the question, are we better off, if they surrender their passports and go? It’s better than them festering away here. “Should we say we’ll lay on charter flights to Syria; turn up with your passport and if you are over 18, if this is the life you want, then go".

11-16-2015, 09:26 PM
A short comment by Richard Barrett, ex-SIS (MI6), who argues we have so far refused to consider this option:
n the wake of Paris, it has become all the more important to determine which returnees present a risk and which do not. This is not only so that authorities can focus scarce resources where they are most needed. It also allows us to identify and seek the help of those that do not present a risk. Many argue that anyone who went to Syria deserves no understanding or mercy on their return; but some of them know that they have made a mistake. They will help us cut the flow of fighters to Syria by helping us understand why they go, why they stay and why they come back. It is these same people who can be more powerful influences than any other on those who may be inclined to join or act on behalf of Isil. Often they have tried it and seen it does not work. They have the credibility and understanding that the rest of us lack. They hold the key to victory.


11-18-2015, 10:17 AM
Yesterday I had the chance to ask a SME on the flow of foriegn fighters from the UK to Syria and whcih faction they joined:
Of the estimated 800 who have gone out to fight, half went to the non-jihadist groups in the early stages and after the taking of Mosul everyone has gone to join ISIS.

Most UK estimates are that 300 have returned, with a substantial number not being detected by the authorities.

Personally I doubt if any have escaped from ISIS. I would expect expressing doubts would be seen as a threat and they would be killed.

03-23-2016, 04:36 PM
A short BBC radio programme (38 mins) by Gordon Corera, in part explained as:
Gordon Corera explores the British government's response to managing returnees. In the last two years Britain has brought in temporary exclusion orders and is able to confiscate passports to prevent people preparing to travel to Syria.

03-31-2016, 12:17 PM
A short video (12 mins) about five boys - three of them brothers - who left Brighton (UK) to Syria:
Mark Townsend asks why....... to join an al-Qaida affiliated group. What clues were missed? What was it about them that should have alerted the authorities to their potential radicalisation?

There is a longer written "long read". On a first glance I do wonder if this is actually true:
Their journey from the south coast to Syria cannot be reduced to a single factor, but it involves racist abuse, allegations of police neglect, and the collective failure of numerous authorities – both those charged with protecting vulnerable young people, and those charged with preventing radicalisation.

What about the factors that persuaded them to go? Brighton can in places be wealthy and has a strong gay community - which may be a factor, not mentioned in the article.

01-06-2018, 09:57 PM
Catching up on my reading I found this early December 2017 article by Shashank Joshi (ex-RUSI), written after the brand new Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson call the day before:
A dead terrorist can’t cause any harm to Britain....I do not believe that any terrorist, whether they come from this country or any other, should ever be allowed back into this country. We should do everything we can do to destroy and eliminate that threat.

Link to Joshi's article:https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/dec/08/kill-isis-fighters-gavin-williamson-defence-secretary-not-simple

Link to the report on the Defence Secretary comments:https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/dec/07/british-isis-fighters-should-be-hunted-down-and-killed-says-defence-secretary-gavin-williamson

The big snag for the UK is that IIRC four hundred suspected fighters have returned already; a figure officials now cite. Only a fraction have been arrested and prosecuted.

02-11-2018, 10:13 PM
Raffaello Pantucci, from RUSI, prompted by two high-profile cases, involving lone extreme right wingers in the past week, reminds us to be blunt they talk or announce their intentions beforehand:
Preventing terror attacks by lone individuals poses a serious challenge. But there are sometimes behaviours and actions that might give them away....Our research suggests that, more often than not, lone actors imagine that they belong to a wider movement – sometimes attending group activities such as rallies and conducting online research....Individuals had leaked information about their plans in about half of all cases.

The article refers to a RUSI project for the details:https://rusi.org/publication/occasional-papers/lone-actor-terrorism-final-report

07-29-2018, 02:28 PM
An academic article behind a pay-wall, but the Abstract is free and with my emphasis:
How long does it typically take a returned foreign fighter to launch a domestic terror attack? The issue of returnees, and appropriate national and international responses to potential threats, has become a preeminent security concern of the 2010s, impacting policies on everything from refugees to whether to permit ISIS fighters to leave the theater of conflict alive. This article attempts to illuminate these contentious debates through a new data set of Lags in Attack Times of Extremist Returnees (LATER) that examines 230 jihadi returnees to Western countries. The data indicate that the majority of attempted attacks occur within one year, with a median lag time of just four months. Prison appears to play no role in lag times. Our findings indicate that security and reintegration efforts should be targeted within the critical six months after return, which diminishes the risk of attack considerably.
Link:https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09546553.2018.1497987?journalCode=ftpv20#.W1tFdN_P aus.twitter