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ISIS bride Shamima Begum WILL be arrested and must be treated as a security threat if she wins her legal battle to return to the UK, Met Police counter-terror chief Neil Basu says
- Neil Basu said fighters who had gone to Syria and back can expect to be probed
- He said UK does not need to ‘import a greater problem’ on top of current issues
- Mr Basu said Begum was the best example of the problem assessing their threat
Neil Basu said Begum was the best example of the problem assessing the risk of letting someone back into the UK
ISIS bride Shamima Begum will be arrested and must be treated as a security threat if she wins her legal battle to return home, the UK’s counter-terror chief has said.
Neil Basu said people who had gone to Syria and made it back should expect to be investigated and face prosecution.
The assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police said the country does not need to ‘import a greater problem’ on top of the current terrorism threat.
It comes after the head of the terrorism watchdog warned attempts to deradicalise jihadis using mentoring and theological programmes do not work.
Mr Basu told the Standard Begum was the best example of the problem assessing the risk of letting someone back into the UK.
Begum, who was 15 when she and two other schoolgirls flew to Syria in 2015, is appealing against a government decision to strip her of her British citizenship.
Her legal team last month told the Supreme Court about the difficulty in contacting their client, who is being held in a camp in the country.
They claim the only way she can effectively appeal the Government’s decision is to return to the UK.
The assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police said the country does not need to ‘import a greater problem’ on top of the current terrorism threat. Pictured: Begum
Mr Basu said: ‘She’s the big exemplar of the problem we have of the assessment of threat and risk.
‘She’s also someone who would expect to be arrested and investigated for her activity and nobody who has travelled there who has said the things publicly that she’s said should be under any illusion.
‘My job is to assess whether she’s a threat to the British public and that is something that would involve her being investigated by counter-terrorism policing.
‘A returning foreign fighter or somebody who has supported a cause has to be treated as a threat until I know otherwise.’
Begum’s British citizenship was revoked on national security grounds shortly after she was found, nine months pregnant, in a Syrian refugee camp in February last year.
Mr Basu said people who had gone to Syria and made it back should expect to be investigated and face prosecution
The 21-year-old is in the al-Roj camp in northern Syria, where conditions are said by her lawyers to be ‘dire’.
She is challenging the Home Office’s decision to remove her British citizenship and wants to be allowed to return to the UK to pursue her appeal.
In July, the Court of Appeal ruled ‘the only way in which she can have a fair and effective appeal is to be permitted to come into the UK to pursue her appeal’.
But the Home Office argued allowing her to return ‘would create significant national security risks’ and expose the public to ‘an increased risk of terrorism’.
Mr Basu highlighted the ‘remarkably difficult’ problem with getting the information to prosecute someone who has travelled to join ISIS.
He said keeping them out of Britain was the safest option but warned those who make it back will be investigated and prosecuted for any terrorist offences.
The policeman also noted the problems thrown up by jihadi brides – such as Begum – who have returned.
Mr Basu said the process of deradicalisation, trauma management and risk assessment and management are things that concern him.
He backed the government’s ‘strategic distance’ policy of keeping those who are trying to come back out.
He revealed there are ‘well over 800’ terrorist investigations underway in Britain at the moment – which he said is a record.
Begum is being held at the al-Roj refugee camp in northern Syria, where she is faced with ‘dire conditions’, according to her legal team
And he added Home Office figures show 79 per cent of alleged jihadis are British or dual nationals, making it a ‘home-grown problem’.
Kadiza Sultana and Amira Abase, then 16 and 15, and Begum boarded a flight from Gatwick to Istanbul on February 17, 2015, before making their way to Raqqa in Syria.
The three schoolgirls from Bethnal Green Academy left London shortly after Sharmeena Begum – who is no relation – travelled to Syria in December 2014.
Begum claims she married Dutch convert Yago Riedijk 10 days after arriving in IS territory, with all three of her school friends also reportedly marrying fighters.
She told the Times last February she left Raqqa in January 2017 with her husband, but her children, a one-year-old girl and a three-month-old boy, had both since died.
Terrorists freed to launch knife attacks on UK streets after ‘deradicalision’ failed
Usman Khan, 28, attacked and killed two people using kitchen knives he had taped to his wrists on London Bridge last year.
He was attending an offender rehabilitation meeting at Fishmongers’ Hall in central London after serving less than seven years in jail for planning an al-Qaeda attack.
Sudesh Amman, 20, was shot dead after stabbing two people on Streatham high street in south London in February.
He had been released from prison on licence a few weeks before. He took part in a deradicalisation programme while in jail.
Her third child died in the al-Roj camp in March 2019, shortly after he was born, she says.
Yesterday Jonathan Hall QC said there is ‘no magic bullet, no special pill’ that could deradicalise someone whether they were coming back from Syria or let out of jail.
The independent reviewer of terrorism legislation said extremists being released on to the streets should be closely monitored and made to take lie-detector tests.
He described terrorists as ‘deceptive’ like sex offenders, who would say anything their probation staff would want to hear if it meant being given their freedom.
Mr Hall added although there was no harm in using theological mentoring and other schemes for offenders, people should be under ‘no illusion’ they would be effective.
He told the Times: ‘It’s a pretty difficult, complex and fraught process. You can’t tell the public that you can place someone with a theological mentor […] and they’ll come out the other side. It’s far more difficult than that.
‘I can see why people try, because if you didn’t try, it would be throwing away all hope, and these offenders are also subjected to some pretty major restrictions so it’s worth giving them an opportunity to change.
‘And there will be some who will change, but you should be under no illusions. It is not some automatic process. And in many cases it simply won’t work. It doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying.’
His comments come just over a year after Usman Khan, who was attending an offender rehabilitation meeting at Fishmongers’ Hall in central London, attacked and killed two people using kitchen knives he had taped to his wrists.
Khan had been on a Desistance and Disengagement Programme (DDP), which focused on giving education and theological support to convicted terrorists or returned jihadist fighters.
Khan had also been supported by a psychologist.
Recent figures reveal a record number of extremists have been sent to another government deradicalisation scheme called The Channel project.
There were 697 new cases in the year to the end of March, which was driven by surging numbers of far-right sympathisers.
The Home Office said 302 cases were over concerns regarding right-wing radicalisation.
Fears over Islamist extremists led to 260 referrals.
Most of the total – more than 5,500 – were male and more than half (3,423) were aged 20 or under.
The Channel programme provides support including education and mental health workers in an attempt to divert extremists away from terrorism.
It also provides ‘ideological mentoring’.
Mr Hall said he supported plans in the government’s Counter Terrorism Bill to subject released terrorists to polygraph tests.
The measure, which has been used in the management of sexual offenders since 2013, will apply to terrorist offenders with a ‘Very High/High risk’ of serious harm who have served at least 12 months in jail.
It was drawn up after the London Bridge attack to tighten the monitoring of serious offenders in the community.
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland, said: ‘Terrorists and their hateful ideologies have no place on our streets.
‘They can now expect to go to prison for longer and face tougher controls on release.
‘From introducing a 14-year minimum for the most dangerous offenders, to putting in place stricter monitoring measures, this government is pursuing every option available to tackle this threat and keep communities safe.’
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