Over the past week, the authorities have disrupted two potential terrorist attacks in London. This follows the Westminster Bridge attack in March, which was claimed by the Islamic State (IS). Britain has been one of the most targeted states by IS’s campaign of global terror, and these latest incidents—whether or not they transpire to be IS-linked—underline the scale of the terrorist threat to Britain. Security forces prevented thirteen attacks in the U.K. between June 2013 and March 2017, and at any one time there are five-hundred live investigations into potential terrorist incidents, with 3,000 Britons believed to be capable of committing an act of domestic terrorism. Continue reading
Since the offensive against Mosul, the Iraqi capital of the Islamic State (IS), began five months ago, IS has expended a high number of lives quite deliberately in suicide attacks. One of the suicide-attacks conducted on 20 February 2017, a car bombing against an Iraqi base, was by Abu Zakariya al-Britani, a British citizen now identified as Ronald Fiddler from Manchester. In 2002, Fiddler, then calling himself Jamal Udeen al-Harith, was sent to Guantanamo Bay, before being released in 2004 while still protesting his innocence. After suing the British government over his imprisonment, Fiddler received a substantial cash settlement in order to avoid compromising state secrets. Fiddler’s demise invites some revisiting of widely-held assumptions surrounding Guantanamo. Continue reading
Yesterday, the Islamic State (IS) released their thirteenth issue of Dabiq. Among many things, it contained an admission of death for Mohammed Emwazi (“Jihadi John”). Referred to by his kunya, Abu Muharib al-Muhajir, Dabiq said (pp. 22-23) Emwazi had been hit by an “unmanned drone in the city of ar-Raqqah” on November 12, “destroying the car and killing him instantly.” The biography that Dabiq offered gave some intriguing details, confirming some surmises I had made about Emwazi when his identity was revealed last spring, including his early involvement in an al-Qaeda network in London sending fighters to al-Shabab in Somalia—the thing that brought him to the attention of the security services, confirming that the truth was the inverse of CAGE’s infamous claim that harassment by the MI5 had radicalized Emwazi—and that Emwazi had left Britain to do jihad in Syria in the company of another British citizen. Emwazi was also in the thick of it when IS broke from al-Qaeda and offers an interesting and rare example of a European IS fighter entrusted with an internal security role for the caliphate.
The outreach director of CAGE (formerly Cageprisoners), Moazzam Begg, went to Syria between October 2012 and April 2013. Begg was arrested in Britain on Feb. 25, 2014, on terrorism-related charges because while in Syria, Begg attended a terrorist training camp. Begg was held in Belmarsh until Oct. 1, 2014. Begg had been due to begin trial on Oct. 5, 2014, but that trial was abandoned because of new evidence that meant there was “no longer a realistic prospect of gaining a conviction,” and Begg was released.
Begg is on record as having said that he “help[ed] to run a training camp in the countryside near Idlib … where opponents of the [Assad] regime could undergo physical exercise and acquire the rudiments of first aid and military training, with fake wooden guns.” There is certainly an ambiguity here: the only real defensive policy for Syria’s civilians is one that overthrows Assad, so Begg’s claim that what he did “was not an act of terrorism, but an attempt to help people defend themselves,” is not, on its face, ridiculous. Begg’s problem is that this was not a camp for Syrians; the camp he “help[ed] to run” was for foreign al-Qaeda members, who have done immense damage to the anti-Assad cause, associating it with fanaticism and atrocity and warding off necessary international support that could have toppled the dictator. Continue reading
Having written two posts on the overwhelming evidence that the British video-beheader of the Islamic State (ISIS), Mohammed Emwazi (“Jihadi John”), was a longstanding member of an al-Qaeda network in London that funnelled fighters and other resources to al-Shabab in Somalia, refuting the claim that Emwazi’s radicalisation came about after contact with British security services, I now want to offer the remaining available evidence we have on how Emwazi moved from these associations—which he made in 2007—to fighting for ISIS. Continue reading
The good news of the week is that CAGE (formerly Cageprisoners) is finished. While there had been no shortage of people pointing out that CAGE is a Salafi jihadist advocacy group and terrorist-supporting outfit, not a human rights organisation, this was often met with accusations of “Islamophobia,” McCarthyism, and worse. In 2010, Amnesty International—which partners with CAGE—fired the head of its Gender Unit, Gita Shaghal, when she complained of making Moazzam Begg an A.I. poster-boy. Begg claims to have been wrongfully imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay; for his actual record see the excellent work done by Thomas Joscelyn (start here and here.) But no person of good faith will ever again defend CAGE. Continue reading