By Jeremy Hodges | Bloomberg

London police called on religious leaders, members of the public and family to help identify home-grown terrorists to prevent the U.K. from becoming an export hub for jihadist violence.

Potential terrorists “may be about to travel abroad, have just returned or be showing signs of becoming radicalized,” Mark Rowley, head of counter terrorism at the Metropolitan Police Service, said in a statement today.

The first six months of this year has seen a total of 69 terror-related arrests, with the biggest growth in offenses connected to Syria occurring in London, he said.

The execution of U.S. journalist James Foley by someone with a British accent has led to a bout of soul-searching in the U.K. as to how and why the country has become an exporter of extremists to the Middle East. U.K. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said that the Islamic State jihadis could strike on U.K. soil, in a Sunday Times article Aug. 24.

“We all need community and religious leaders to continue to speak out against warped narratives and we need everyone to ensure that public debate does not give oxygen to the terrorists by giving them the publicity they seek,” Rowley said.

Prime Minister David Cameron said last week that his government would increase efforts to prevent radicalized Britons traveling to Iraq and Syria.


Cyber spies from the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and the U.K. Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) have leaked security flaws in Tor.

Tor is a free software that allows users to remain anonymous and censored in their online activities. It continues to receive funding from the U.S. State Department and is used by the military, activists, businesses and people performing illegal activities and transactions. Like any other software, it is also vulnerable to security flaws. Tor is regularly informed of these flaws on a monthly basis by spies from the NSA and GCHQ.

In an interview with BBC, Tor project director Andrew Lewman admitted that agents from the alleged international security agencies tipped off these security flaws. These reports were left unconfirmed because they came from anonymous sources.

“There are plenty of people in [the NSA or British intelligence agency GCHQ] who can anonymously leak data to us to say – maybe you should look here, maybe you should look at this to fix this,” Lewman told the BBC. “And they have.”

Lewman added that whoever is tipping off the flaws have highly-technical knowledge of the Tor browser and have enough resources to review the source code of the browser “for hours, for weeks, for months.” The danger here is that since the two agencies were aware of the flaws, it also strongly indicates that the users’ activities are not really anonymous and censored after all. Tor has an average of 2.5 million daily users, mostly from the United States and Europe, and some from Russia, Iran, Vietnam, and China.

Tor remains to be a target by various cybercriminal groups because of the anonymity and the number of data that can be extracted from the browser. In addition, the GHCQ is highly-dependent on Tor for their operations.

“So you can imagine one part of GCHQ is trying to break Tor, the other part is trying to make sure it’s not broken because they’re relying on it to do their work. So, it’s typical within governments or even within large agencies that you have two halves of the same coin going after different parts of Tor. Some protect it, some try to attack it,” Lewman added.

Meanwhile, the NSA and GHCQ refused to comment on the security allegations.



British intelligence officials have identified the man they believe killed American journalist James Foley in Syria, U.K. security sources told NBC News on Sunday. NBC News has not yet confirmed the name of the suspect, and sources have said that rampant media speculation about the identity of the killer may be off base.

Earlier on Sunday, the British ambassador to the U.S. said officials were “close” to identifying the man with an apparent British accent who beheaded Foley in a video released by ISIS militants earlier in the week.

“We’re not in a position to say exactly who this is,” Sir Peter Westmacott said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” but “I think we are close.” Westmacott said “sophisticated” voice recognition technology was being used to identify the man who appeared in the video, but he also stressed that the threat of British nationals in ISIS goes beyond one killer.

“It’s not just about one brutal murderer,” Westmacott said. British intelligence estimates that about 500 Britons have joined ISIS, meaning they have the means to return to Britain or fly to America with few hindrances. “It is a threat to our citizens,” Westmacott said.

A U.S. Department of Justice official had told NBC News earlier Sunday that investigators were using “all of the tools at our disposal” to hold Foley’s killers “accountable.”


By Robert Stevens

The barbaric murder of American journalist James Foley, and his apparent beheading by a masked British man, is being used to move the UK towards direct military participation in Iraq and Syria.

Prime Minister David Cameron responded to Foley’s murder by returning from holiday and chairing a meeting of the governmental emergency COBRA committee. A few days earlier Cameron had described the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as an “exceptionally dangerous terrorist movement”. Using the humanitarian crisis facing Yazidis trapped by ISIS on a mountain in northern Iraq, he pledged that Britain would use “all the assets we have”, including our “military prowess”.

The nationality of Foley’s suspected killer has highlighted the large number of British Muslims who have travelled to Syria, since the beginning of that country’s civil war in 2011, to fight alongside other jihadists against the regime of Bashar Al-Assad.

British MP Khalid Mahmood said that official government estimates that 400 to 500 Britons have gone to fight in Syria were “nonsense”. Speaking to Newsweek, Mahmoud estimated at least 1,500 Britons were in Syria. “If you look across the whole of the country, and the various communities involved, 500 going over each year would be a conservative estimate.” This equates to more than twice as many Muslims than are serving in the British Army, he said.

Since Foley’s death, the British media has been filled with the names and photographs of those suspected to be “Jihadi John”–the nickname given to Foley’s killer. Didier François, a former French hostage held for a year in the Syrian town of Raqqa, told the Guardian that the man who carried out Foley’s murder was one of three British born jihadists whose role was to guard hostages. Hostages referred to them as John, Paul and Ringo, after the Beatles.

The Guardian noted, “The militant who appeared on the Foley video, who called himself John and is believed to be from London, was said to be the main rebel negotiator during talks earlier this year to release 11 Islamic State hostages—who were eventually handed to Turkish officials after ransom demands were met.”

The press also cited the case of Khadijah Dare, originally from Lewisham in south east London. The 22-year-old mother moved to Syria in 2012 with her Swedish husband, Abu Bakr, an ISIS fighter. Posting under an assumed name, she wrote on Twitter after Foley’s murder that she wanted to be the first woman to kill someone from the US or UK.

Dare’s biographical details were made public alongside those of dozens of Britons declared to be potential suspects in the “race” and “manhunt” to identify Foley’s killer.

Yet the media’s own coverage suggests strongly that the identity of “Jihadi John” must already be known to the security services—like that of so many others who have gone to fight alongside ISIS. Indeed, within days of Foley’s death the Guardian reported that a source “with knowledge of the work of the intelligence agencies” said “it was highly likely that they [intelligence bodies] knew about ‘John’ and the two British guards of hostages in Syria….” The source added, “I am willing to pay money that the services knew one or all of them.”

Britain’s intelligence agencies, MI5, MI6 and GCHQ, have invested billions of pounds in order to spy on every man, woman and child in the UK and have special units dedicated to all those deemed “extremists”. Following each act of terrorism committed by Islamic fundamentalists in the UK, it has soon emerged that the intelligence services knew the perpetrators in advance. This was the case in the London bombings of July 2005 and the killing of soldier Lee Rigby in May last year.

The closest relations were developed with the radical Islamist preacher Abu Hamza al-Masri, who was protected for years by the secret services before being tried and sentenced to jail in 2006. The Finsbury Park mosque in London, where Hamza preached, was heavily infiltrated by intelligence agents.

The reality is that many of those Britons who travelled to Syria to fight against Assad were allowed to do so by the British government, which was then preparing for war against Syria in alliance with the United States. The jihadists were used as the key detachment of an “internal opposition” to Assad’s regime, to destabilise Syria in preparation for a direct military intervention.

With the turn by ISIS into Iraq and its capture of large swathes of territory, this strategy was thrown into crisis. The death of James Foley is only one tragic expression of this.

As a result, sections of the ruling elite have publicly criticised British imperialism’s Middle East strategy. Prominent political and military figures have now even called for an alliance with yesterday’s erstwhile opponent, Bashar al-Assad, in order to defeat ISIS and resume Britain’s role as the main military ally of the US.

The former chief of the general staff Lord Sir Richard Dannatt said of Assad, “I think whether it’s above the counter or below the counter, a conversation has got to be held with him.”

Dannatt’s comments were followed by those of Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the Conservative chairman of Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee and a former foreign secretary, who said, “Sometimes you actually have to make an arrangement with some nasty people in order to get rid of some even nastier ones”.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Sir Christopher Meyer, a former British ambassador to the United States, said, “As the great Victorian foreign secretary, Lord Palmerston, once said, we have no permanent friends or enemies, only permanent interests.”

Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond replied that Britain will not work with Assad, but added, “We may very well find that we are fighting, on some occasions, the same people that he is but that doesn’t make us his ally.”

Collaboration between the US and Germany and the Assad regime is already underway, according to an article in Friday’s Independent. It reported, “The US has already covertly assisted the Assad government by passing on intelligence about the exact location of jihadi leaders through the BND, the German intelligence service…”

The previous day, General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington, said, “Can they [ISIS] be defeated without addressing that part of the organisation that resides in Syria? The answer is no.”

Once again, the invocations of humanitarian concerns employed by the government and its allies to legitimise the planned war in Syria have been exposed as lies, as the immediate target for military aggression shifts to Iraq.

The domestic threat from ISIS-related terrorism, for which the ruling elite is entirely responsible, is once again being used to justify further attacks on democratic rights. Home Secretary Theresa May wrote in the Telegraph, “We will be engaged in this struggle for many years, probably decades. We must give ourselves all the legal powers we need to prevail. I am looking again at the case for new banning orders for extremist groups that fall short of the legal threshold for terrorist proscription, as well as for new civil powers to target extremists who seek to radicalise others.”

Lord Howard, a former leader of the Conservatives, called for Control Orders first introduced by a Labour government in 2005, to be restored—a form of house arrest preventing any form of contact not explicitly authorised by the state.


by Kim Hjelmgaard and John Bacon, USA TODAY

LONDON — It is likely that there are now more British Muslims fighting for the Islamic State than for Britain’s military.

Britain’s Ministry of Defense confirmed to USA TODAY that there are approximately 600 British Muslim servicemembers in its armed forces of almost 200,000 people. Official government estimates put the number of British Islamic State fighters operating in Syria and Iraq at up to 800. The Foreign Office cautioned Thursday that it is difficult to provide precise numbers.

The militant who beheaded American journalist James Foley in a horrifying video released this week spoke with a British accent. United Kingdom Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond acknowledged that the militant in the video could be a British national. And he knows the problem of British jihadists is not a new one.

“This is something we have been tracking and dealing with for many, many months and I don’t think this video changes anything,” he said. “It just heightens awareness of a situation which is very grave.”

Khalid Mahmood, a member of Parliament from an area with a high proportion of Muslim residents, said government estimates of the number of British Islamic State fighters currently in the Mideast is far too conservative. He told Newsweek magazine this week that at least 1,500 extremists are likely to have been recruited to fight in Iraq and Syria over the last three years.

“There are an unacceptable number of Britons fighting for jihadist forces,” he said.

Experts say the number of Americans fighting for the Islamic State is much lower. Joseph Young, a criminology professor at American University and expert on political violence, said simple geography and the complex cultural differences between the U.S. and Europe are primary reasons why.

Young, who said common estimates put the number of American fighters for IS at 100 to 150, said just getting to Syria or Iraq is extremely complicated from North America. However, the Islamic State’s home region is practically next door for Europeans.

“We also do a better job of integrating our minority communities,” Young said. “Isolation of minority groups is a much bigger problem in Europe.”

Raffaello Pantucci, a researcher at Royal United Services Institute in London, said many young men facing poor job prospects in the U.K. find the IS narrative of defending Islam hard to resist. He agrees with Young — Syria and Iraq are relatively accessible from England.

“These people can go look online and just decide to participate,” he said. “With its proximity to Europe it’s just so easy to do.”

Ghaffar Hussain, of the Quilliam Foundation, a counter-extremism think tank in Britain, said the lure could be empowerment for many British Muslims with grievances over their treatment in a predominantly non-Muslim society.

“It makes them feel like they are part of something that is important to the world,” he said. “If you feel like you don’t really fit in or if Muslims are being attacked and a narrative comes along that explains all that away in a simple way, that is attractive.”

Hussain said a task force was set up – called Channel – to identify people who have been flagged in schools and institutions as being at risk of being drawn into extremism. Channel then pairs them with a mentor who assesses their needs and tries to offer support. But, he said, a major failing of the program is that it only works if individuals are flagged by the system.

“When it comes to the hard-edge, counterterrorism stuff, a lot of good work has been done by the government in terms of thwarting a hell of a lot of plots in recent years, but there are a lot of gaps outside of Channel,” Hussain said. “Taking it seriously is one thing, knowing what to do is another.”

Hussain said that extremism of the kind that is leading British nationals to Iraq and Syria is not limited to Britain but is a western European phenomenon seen in Holland, France, Denmark and other places. He said would-be fighters probably enter Syria through Turkey, though it’s not exactly clear how.

Christopher Davidson, a Mideast expert at Durham University, said there’s been a massive lack of attention to the flow of Westerners headed to the region. “As long as they have been supposedly fighting the (Syrian President Bashar) Assad regime, authorities have turned a blind eye to it. Now that they are going to Iraq we are starting to experience the blow back,” he said.

Young noted that completely stopping the flow of Westerners is probably asking too much.

“Young men throughout time and space have done these kinds of things,” he said.



The Pentagon says the US carried out, but failed in a secret mission, to save American journalists, including James Foley who was recently beheaded by jihadists. The executioner in the Islamic State video, apparently showing Foley’s killing, appears to be a British citizen. UK Prime Minister David Cameron cut his holiday short to condemn the shocking development.


By Robert Stevens and Chris Marsden

After days of denials and prevarication, the UK’s Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition led by Prime Minister David Cameron has once again assumed a military role in Iraq.

Cameron has pledged that Britain would “use all the assets that we have,” including “military prowess” to defeat the Islamic State (IS) Sunni jihadist group.

Eight Tornado bomber jets have already been sent from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus, supposedly to carry out surveillance along with Chinook helicopters. Cameron’s promise that “Britain is not going to get involved in another war in Iraq” and will not be “putting boots on the ground” is worthless. Indeed, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, speaking from Cyprus, said that the UK’s military involvement in Iraq could last for “months.”

“This is not simply a humanitarian mission,” he told RAF flight crews. “We and other countries in Europe are determined to do what we can to help the government of Iraq combat this new and very extreme form of terrorism that IS is promoting.”

Troops from the 2nd Battalion Yorkshire regiment had been sent into the Kurdish capital Irbil for 24 hours to prepare the ground for a possible rescue mission, Fallon said, and the UK had already transported ammunition and arms supplied by other countries to Kurdish forces and will do the same itself in future.

With no political mandate, with no discussion in parliament, and after repeated statements to the contrary, the government is preparing for major military action in Iraq—the scene of one of British imperialism’s greatest criminal ventures.

Cameron, in response to those identifying a change in line, said that this was not the case and that there was no need to recall parliament. The government had nothing to fear from a discussion in parliament as far as the opposition parties and its own ranks are concerned. Labour has done nothing more than to ask for “clarification” of the government’s position. But Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander told BBC Breakfast, “We have supported the steps that the British government, along with other European allies, have taken.”

In fact, Cameron’s volte-face comes in the wake of a chorus of demands for Britain to prepare a military engagement in Iraq across the spectrum of official politics. All complaints centred on the accusation that the government was paralysed, and was losing ground to France and Germany as a result, due to fear of popular opposition to war.

Cameron’s initial refusal to commit to military action in Iraq stemmed from last year’s decision by British MPs to vote down a government attempt to back the United States and secure agreement in principle for military intervention in Syria. Combined with opposition from significant sections of the armed forces, who warned of a possible military conflict with Russia, the MPs acted in the face of overwhelming public hostility to British troops being sent to fight a war against Syria. For Labour, to have supported war would have ended any possibility of a political recovery based on party leader Ed Miliband’s efforts to distance himself from the toxic political legacy of Tony Blair. For the Tories, it would have raised the possibility of enjoying only a single term in office—especially under conditions where millions are being hammered by austerity measures.

The retreat exacted a heavy price for Britain’s ruling elite. In Washington’s ensuing machinations against Russia, culminating in the installation of a puppet government in Ukraine after February’s coup, Britain was excluded from a leading role as the US proceeded in an alliance with Germany, France and Poland.

As the US air strikes in Iraq began, and with parliament in recess, there were numerous demands for its immediate recall in order to give a mandate for the UK to participate.

Various figures from the Armed Forces came forward, including Colonel Tim Collins, a retired 2003 Iraq War commanding officer, and General Sir Richard Shirreff, Britain’s most senior officer in NATO until his retirement in March, who attacked “this commitment-phobic government that is terrified of being seen to be putting boots on the ground….”

Former chief of the general staff Lord Sir Richard Dannatt was most direct in addressing the vote against action in Syria. “That proposal was wrong and Britain was right to stay out,” he wrote. “But one unfortunate consequence of that wise strategic decision was that many people have interpreted the UK’s caution as evidence that we have lost the will to get involved in international affairs at all. Now we must demonstrate that when the issues are right, we will act in line with our values and our interests.”

The same point was made by several Tory MPs, while Saturday saw the publication of a letter written to Cameron by the Bishop of Leeds, with the support of the Archbishop of Canterbury, complaining that “We do not seem to have a coherent or comprehensive approach to Islamic extremism as it is developing across the globe” and urging measures to defend Iraqi Christians.

But easily the most strident voices calling for a military response came from leading figures from the Labour Party. Jack Straw, defence minister under the Blair Labour government and a key player in the illegal invasion of Iraq, said, “We are getting close to the need to recall Parliament” and “have to look at what further action we could take by way of military assistance.”

Mike Gapes MP, a former chair of the foreign affairs select committee, declared, “The prime minister may feel unable to act now following his defeat and mishandling of the Syria debate last August. He should get over it and urgently recall parliament…. I hope we can then, with opposition support, achieve a massive vote for UK military intervention alongside our US and NATO partners….”

Tom Watson MP even equated the necessity to confront IS to that of Britain’s entry into the First and Second World Wars. “We cannot abandon Iraq to the black flags of IS any more than we could leave Europe to the Kaiser or to his black-shirted inheritors 22 years later…at stake are hundreds of thousands of lives now and Britain’s role in the world for decades to come.”

It was in the face of such sustained criticism that Cameron felt obliged to declare that Iraq today was not “a problem that should be defined by a war 10 years ago.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. Any intervention in Iraq conducted under the banner of humanitarian intervention—either to rescue the Yazidis, or to aid the Kurds or Christians—would be a resumption of the predatory war to control Middle East oil supplies. Only the faces of some of the political criminals involved will have changed.


The West is embroiled in a generational struggle against a poisonous brand of Islamic extremism that will bring terror to the streets of Britain unless urgent action is taken to defeat it, David Cameron warns today.

Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, the Prime Minister says the world cannot turn a blind eye to the creation of an extremist caliphate in the heart of Iraq.

Warning that Islamic State fighters already control thousands of square miles of territory, Mr Cameron says that if these “warped and barbaric” extremists are not dealt with now, they will create a “terrorist state” on the shores of the Mediterranean.

He warns that Britain will have to use its “military prowess” to help defeat “this exceptionally dangerous” movement, or else terrorists with “murderous intent” will target people in Britain.

The Prime Minister says he fears the struggle will last “the rest of my political lifetime”.

“The creation of an extremist caliphate in the heart of Iraq and extending into Syria is not a problem miles away from home. Nor is it a problem that should be defined by a war 10 years ago. It is our concern here and now,” he says.

“Because if we do not act to stem the onslaught of this exceptionally dangerous terrorist movement, it will only grow stronger until it can target us on the streets of Britain. We already know that it has the murderous intent.”

In his article, Mr Cameron says Britain and the West need a firm security response to the crisis in Iraq and that fighters from Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) cannot simply be removed by air strikes alone.

An Isil fighter stands guard at a checkpoint in Mosul, Iraq (Reuters)

He says this must involve military action to go after the terrorists themselves, but also stresses that the Government must take uncompromising action against extremists in Britain trying to recruit fighters for jihad abroad. The Prime Minister discloses that the Government has already taken down 28,000 pieces of terrorist related material from the web, including 46 Isil videos.

He says he has also discussed the issue with Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, and pledges that anyone caught trying to recruit people in Britain – or anyone flying the black flag of Islamic State, as happened in east London earlier this month – will be arrested.

“The position is clear. If people are walking around with Isil flags or trying to recruit people to their terrorist cause they will be arrested and their materials will be seized,” he says.

“We are a tolerant people, but no tolerance should allow the room for this sort of poisonous extremism in our country.”

Last night, the Bishop of Leeds released a letter he had sent to Mr Cameron describing British policy on Islamic extremism as not “coherent or comprehensive”.

The Right Rev Nicholas Baines, who claimed to have the support of the Archbishop of Canterbury, said that he remained “very concerned about the government’s response to several issues” and poses questions to the Prime Minster about his policy towards Iraq and Syria. In the letter, published on his blog, the bishop writes of his “serious concern that we do not seem to have a coherent or comprehensive approach” towards groups such as the Islamic State, Boko Haram in Nigeria and other extremist groups.

A Lambeth Palace source told The Sunday Telegraph that while the Archbishop of Canterbury “supports the bishop posing these questions,” he also acknowledged the “major difficulties” faced by the Government in tackling extremism and called on people to pray for the government.

In his article, the Prime Minister lays bare his alarm at how the crisis in Iraq threatens European security, Mr Cameron says the first Isil-inspired terrorist acts on the continent of Europe have already taken place.

“We are in the middle of a generational struggle against a poisonous and extremist ideology which I believe we will be fighting for the rest of my political lifetime,” he says. “We face in Isil a new threat that is single-minded, determined and unflinching in pursuit of its objectives.

“Already it controls not just thousands of minds, but thousands of square miles of territory, sweeping aside much of the boundary between Iraq and Syria to carve out its so-called caliphate. It makes no secret of its expansionist aims.

“Even today it has the ancient city of Aleppo firmly within its sights. And it boasts of its designs on Jordan and Lebanon, and right up to the Turkish border. If it succeeded we would be facing a terrorist state on the shores of the Mediterranean and bordering a Nato member.”

Mr Cameron made his comments as the Ministry of Defence disclosed that Britain had deployed a spy plane as part of humanitarian efforts in Iraq. The MoD confirmed that the intelligence-gathering Rivet Joint aircraft had carried out several flights over areas in the north of country which have been targeted by advancing Islamist extremists.

It emerged last week that Britain was considering joining France and several eastern European countries and arming Kurdish forces in Iraq to help them fight Islamic State militants. In his article, Mr Cameron discloses that he is considering sending body armour and specialist counter-explosive equipment to the Kurds.

Britain will also appoint a British representative to the region who will be based in the country and be able to have daily face-to-face contact with the people there, the Prime Minister says.

He adds that Britain will also use next month’s Nato summit in Wales and press for more action in the United Nations to “help rally support across the international community” for the Kurdish people, who have been fighting the Islamic State extremists in northern Iraq. The move to supply arms directly will inevitably be seen as a further risk that Britain will be drawn more into the conflict.

But Mr Cameron rules out deploying troops to Iraq, making clear that the crisis is not “a problem that should be defined by a war 10 years ago”. However, while he says this is not the “War on Terror” or a religious war, it is a struggle for “decency” and ‘tolerance” and Britain’s future prosperity.

“I agree that we should avoid sending armies to fight or occupy, but we need to recognise that the brighter future we long for requires a long term plan for our security as well as one for our economy,” he says.

“True security will only be achieved if we use all our resources – aid, diplomacy, our military prowess – in helping to achieve a more stable world. In today’s world, so immediately interconnected as it is, we cannot turn a blind eye and assume that there will not be a cost for us if we do.”

Mr Cameron adds: “This is a clear danger to Europe and to our security. It is a daunting challenge.

“But it is not an invincible one, as long as we are now ready and able to summon up the political will to defend our own values and way of life with the same determination, courage and tenacity as we have faced danger before in our history. That is how much is at stake here: we have no choice but to rise to the challenge.”

Mr Cameron also discloses that Britain is looking at leading talks with Iran to control the destabilising threat of Islamic State fighters in the region. He says Britain has to “work with countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the UAE, Egypt and Turkey and perhaps even with Iran” against this “shared threat”. “I want Britain to play a leading role in this diplomatic effort,” he says.

Yazidi refugees fill bottles at the Newroz camp in the Hasaka province, Syria (AFP)

The crisis in Iraq was highlighted by reports on Saturday that up to 80 Yazidis were killed by Islamic State fighters in the biggest massacre of the Iraqi minority in the jihadists’ brutal campaign.

Kurdish and Yazidi sources reported that dozens of people in the village of Kocho, located about 15 miles from Sinjar city, had been summarily executed by jihadists after they refused to “convert to Islam”.

Hoshyar Zebari, a senior Iraqi official who said he had spoken to witnesses from the scene, said that the jihadists had “committed a massacre”.

In his article, Mr Cameron admits that he is sympathetic with people who are wary about Britain becoming more involved in the country.

He says: “After a deep and damaging recession, and our involvement in long and difficult conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is hardly surprising that so many people say to me when seeing the tragedies unfolding on their television screens, ‘Yes, let’s help with aid, but let’s not get any more involved.’

“I agree that we should avoid sending armies to fight or occupy. But we need to recognise that the brighter future we long for requires a long-term plan for our security as well as for our economy. True security will only be achieved if we use all our resources – aid, diplomacy, our military prowess – to help bring about a more stable world.

“Today, when every nation is so immediately interconnected, we cannot turn a blind eye and assume that there will not be a cost for us if we do.”

A fresh consignment of British aid was flown to Iraqis fleeing the advance of the extremists amid reports of another massacre of religious minorities late last week.

The US said its drones had destroyed two armoured vehicles reported by Kurdish leaders as being used by Islamic State forces to attack civilians near Sinjar.

Last week, the United Nations Security Council unanimously approved a resolution designed to choke off the terrorists’ funding and recruitment. It also imposed sanctions including a travel ban and an asset freeze on six prominent extremists and warned that action could be taken against anyone held responsible for aiding the cause.

Sir Mark Lyall Grant, Britain’s UN ambassador, said the resolution represented a “comprehensive rejection” of Islamic State.

But he said it was only a first step and urged the international community to be “resolved, active and creative in considering what further measures should be taken to tackle this terrorist scourge”.

Nadhim Zahawi, a Conservative MP who was visiting northern Iraq late last week, said that Islamic State fighters had been caught carrying a season ticket for Liverpool Football Club and a gym card from Ealing.

He said that local forces estimated that between “500 and 750 fighters have joined the Islamic caliphate from the United Kingdom”.

Rory Stewart MP, the Tory chairman of the defence select committee who was also in Iraq, said Islamic State was now a “significant threat”.

He added: “We have been complacent. This has been developing a long time. In some ways these people have been in Mosul for two and a half years and we worked up to it about two and a half months ago.

“We ignored them when they were developing in eastern Syria, we ignored them when they took Fallujah in January.

“This is a huge and growing problem and some of those people are very, very clear in every interview they give that they want to come back and do jihad elsewhere.”


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