ISIS threatens to kill British deserters
Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) leadership issued death threats to the British fighters amongst their ranks who are reportedly desperate to return to the UK, the Observer reported.
“There are Britons who upon wanting to leave have been threatened with death, either directly or indirectly,” a source with extensive contacts through different Syrian rebel groups was quoted as saying.
At least 30 British militants fighting for ISIS want to return home, former Guantánamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg told the British newspaper, adding that they were held in Syria and Iraq against their will.
These reports follow the death of yet another young British Muslim, Muhammad Mehdi Hassan, 19, who was reportedly killed in the battle to claim control over the Syrian-Kurdish town of Kobane, the fourth man to die in Syria from the UK city of Portsmouth.
Prosecution of returning fighters
Over the past few months, members of the British governments suggested that fighters returning from Iraq and Syria be tried for treason.
Begg, who offered to help negotiate the release of British ISIS hostage Alan Henning but was refused by the British government, called that returning fighters be pardoned, and instead of being prosecuted be put through rehabilitation centers such as those in Denmark.
He also described the predicament a fighter who has given up on ISIS ideology faces once they attempt to return home.
“When it becomes solidified as an Islamic State, a caliph, and you swear allegiance, thereafter if you do something disobedient you are now disobeying the caliph and could be subject to disciplinary measures which could include threats of death or death,” he told the Observer.
Many Britons are “stuck between a rock and a hard place,” Begg said adding that “there are a large number of people out there who want to come back. The number in January was around 30, that was the number given to me. That number has definitely increased since.”
Begg, who has extensive contacts in Syria, said that those fighting with non-ISIS rebel forces have been imprisoned, despite their clear disagreement with the extremist group’s ideology.
“Some of the guys I met in Belmarsh had gone to Syria to help in a humanitarian defensive role,” he said, explaining that many of them refused to get caught in inter-rebel fighting and were still detained by British authorities.
“If you come back because of the infighting it means that you are not ideologically attached to groups like Isis.”
King’s College London’s International Centre for the Study of Radicalization (ICSR) estimated 500 Britons have travelled to Iraq and Syria, 24 of which have been killed.
Hassan’s death follows Manunur Roshid’s, also believed to have been killed in the battle of Kobane where fighting between ISIS militants and Kurdish fighters aided by the anti-ISIS U.S.-led coalition, continues.
Hassan and Roshid were part of a group of five who called themselves the “Britani Brigade Bangladeshi Bad Boys.”
Four were killed; one returned to the UK and is currently detained while the last remaining member of the “Brigade” continues to fight in Syria.
“We know that Hassan was fighting for the battle of Kobane, likely alongside Manunur Rohsid, who was reported killed a few days ago,” Shiraz Maher, from the ICSR, said.